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BV 4817 .881 1835 
Steele, Richard, 1629-1692. 
A remedy for wandering 
thoughts in the worship of 

The John M. Krebs Donation. 





BY THE -, 


" How canst thou say I love thee, when thy heart is not with 
me?" — Judges xvi. 15. 

"With my whole heart have 
wander." — Psalm cxix. 10. 

I sought tl^e, O let me not 

N Em Y 0'RJEC4^ ^^; 

D. APPLET ON & CO.V'SO^^^K^tW?'^^- 



G. l'\ Hopkins & Soil, Priutcrs, 41 xNussaustreeU 






These first fruits I humbly lay at thy blessed footstool, 
O God, being ambitious of no patron but thyself; for thou 
alone canst attest the sincerity of my aim herein, which will 
plead with thee for the imbecilities thereof. Thou alone art 
the right author of every valuable line and word in this en- 
suing tract. The errors only are mine, but the honour is 
tliine. Thou hast the strongest hand, and truest heart to 
protect both the writing r.nd the writer from all the unkind 
usage that we may meet with. Thy approbation chiefly I 
humbly crave, and then I am sure to have all good men on 
my side. Against thee, thee only, have I offended by my 
distractions, and done these evils in thy sight ; and there- 
fore am bound to seek the destruction of them in all the 
world for thy sake. Thou hast so infinitely obliged the 
unworthy writer of these lines, that he rejoices in this op- 
portunity to tell the world. That there is none in heaven or 
earth to be compared to thee. Thou only canst make my 
endeavours herein successful, and bring that to the heart 
which I could only present to the ear or eye. Unto thee, 


therefore, do I dedicate both this and myself, with this earn- 
est prayer, That this Essay may both please thee, and profit 
thy Church! That thou wouldest take this rod into thy 
hands, and therewith whip these buyers and sellers out of 
thy temple! That thy great name may hereby be mag- 
nified, though the writer's were never known! To thy 
heavenly blessing do I most humbly recommend this nean 
work, and worthless workman, with a resolution to remain, 
while I have any being, 

Tliine own, 





Christian Reader: — You have here an antidote against 
the most common distemper of God's people, in his worship. 
My own disease caused me to study the cure ; the general 
complaint of good people against these Egyptian flies moved 
me to preach it; and the common good of God's church, 
not without solicitations thereto, hath now persuaded me to 
publish it. Be not offended that so much is written on so 
minute a point ; greater tracts on the fever, stone, or tooth- 
ache, whereby they may be certainly cured, would not be 
thought too long by such as are sick thereof. Indeed, this 
had never seen the light, but that the disease is so general, 
and that so few, if any, have thorouglily handled it. How- 
ever, this may serve, as the learned lord Verulam hath it, 
"to awake better spirits, and to do the bell-ringer's office, 
who is first up to call others to church." This being my 
first essay, riper judgements will, I believe, observe divers 
defects and superfluities therein ; but candour is a common 
debt, which we all owe one to another, and one poor mite 
may be accepted by men, when two mites can please Christ 
himself. It is my request to you, especially, that were the 
first hearers hereof, that ye be not hearers or readers only, 


but doers of the word. The world knows you have been 
constant hearers, let the world see that you are careful doers. 
The indubitable truths and duties that I have laid before 
you, will undoubtedly convert you, or else undoubtedly 
condemn you ; and therefore I beseech you in the bowels 
of Christ, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For 
now I live if ye stand fast iti the Lord. And my earnest 
request /or yow is, that divine power may accompany divine 
precepts. If you reap any benefit, let God have all the 
praise, and put the poor instrument into some corner of your 
prayers. I have chosen a dialect and phrase famihar for the 
advantage of the matter, rather than the applause of the 
writer, being contented to be ranked among those who re- 
gard the graces of style but as the secondary object of a good 
writer ; you will excuse the unevenness of the style, and 
other imperfections, when you understand that I had more 
studies than books in composing hereof, being distant from 
my library, and variously distracted in the writing about 
distractions. But my aim being a solid cure, not a starched 
discourse, I have chosen a divinity dress, and not preached 
myself, who am the chief of sinners, but Christ Jesus, my 
Lord, and myself. 

Your servant. 

For Jesus' sake, 

R. S. 





Sect. I. The explication of the Text 13 

Sect. 11. A Distraction described 16 



Sect. I. Their several fountains 20 

1. TheDevil 20 

2. The mind 22 

3. The fancy 23 

4. The outward senses 25 

Sect. II. By the matter whereof they consist 26 

Being good, bad, indifferent 26 

Sect. in. By the adjuncts of them 29 





Sect. I. From the possibility of it, by four Arguments 34 

Sect. II. From the necessity of it 38 

1. To the being of a duty. 38 

2. To comfortin a duty 39 

3. To the prosperity of a duty 40 

4. To communion with Christ in a duty 41 



Sect. I. From the nature of God 44 

His 1. Greatness 1 44 

2. Holmess 46 

3. Omniscience 47 

Sect. II. From the nature of his M'^orship 49 

Being 1. Reasonable 49 

2. Spiritual 51 

3. Sweet 52 

Sect. III. From the nature of our condition 53 

1. We cannot live without God 53 

2. Our only way of communion with God is by ordi- 

nances 53 

3. All our heart and strength is too little for this work 54 
Sect. IV. From the nature of Distractions 56 

1. They divide the heart. 56 



2. They frustrate the duty 57 

3. They contract more guilt 58 



Sect. I. Its impossibility 60 

Sect. II. Its difficulty 63 

Sect. III. Their commonness 67 

Sect IV. God's accepting the will for the deed 80 



Sect I. Secret atheism 74 

A remedy thereof. 77 

Sect. II. The corruption of our nature 78 

Its remedy 81 

Sect. III. Unpreparedness to holy duties 86 

A case of conscience answered, viz : 

What measure of preparation is necessary before our 

ordinary duties of worship 87 

Sect. IV. Lukewarmness 92 

Its remedies 95 

Sect. V. Worldly-mindedness 98 

Its remedy 101 

Sect. VI. Weakness of love to Christ and his ordi- 
nances 106 

Its remedies 109 

Sect. VII. Want of watchfulness 114 

1. Before duties » 114 



2. Induties 115 

S, Afterduties 117 

The remedy thereof. 118 

Sect. VIII. A beloved sin 121 

Its remedies 124 

Sect. IX. Satan 126 

A remedy 129 

Sect. X. Vain thoughts at other times j ...... . 131 

These 1. Displease and disengage the Spirit of God 132 

2. Dispose and naturalize the soul to these thoughts 133 

3. Discourage us to the conquest, and encourage us 

to the sin 134 

4. Infect the memory 136 

5. Provoke God to give us up 137 

The remedies hereof. 138 

Sect. XL A divided heart in four respects 143 

Its remedy 147 

Sect. XII. An opinion that there is no great evil in 

them 149 

Its remedy 150 



1. In their nature 

Sect. I. They arc sins against the first tahlc 1 56 

Sect. II. They are heart sins 158 

Sect. III. They are sins in the special presence of God IGO 
Sect. IV. They are sins about the most serious busi- 
ness 162 



Sect. V. They are sins of hypocrisy 165 

Sect. VI. They alienate the heart from holy duties. . . 167 

Sect. VII. They affront the majesty of God 169 

Sect. VIII. They hinder the benefits of a holy duty. . . 171 

Sect. IX. They deprive the soul of comfort 174 

Sect. X. They grieve away the Holy Ghost 176 



Sect. I. Dispel the causes 179 

Sect. II. Bevi^ail your former failings herein 182 

Sect. III. Engage the Spirit of God in your assistance 187 

Sect. IV. Believe in the presence of God 191 

Sect. V. Lay a law upon your senses 197 

Whispering during the worship of God 1 99 

Sect. VI. Reflection and ejaculation ' 203 

Sect. VII. Strength of grace 208 

How it should be gotten ^ 215 



Sect. I. They may exist with grace 218 

Sect. II. Your case is not singular 222 

Sect. III. Christ's intercession is without distraction . . 223 

Sect.-IV. Distractions may make us humble 225 

Sect. V. God can make some sense out of such prayers 227 
Sect. VI. There is a grace and strength in Christ to 

help against them 229 

Sect. VII. A perfect riddance of them is the happiness 

of heaven 231 





Sect. I. We have cause to mourn over our best duties 234 

Sect. II. Omissions of duty are dangerous 237 

Sect. III. The great necessity of watchfulness 240 

Particularly in 

1. Prayer 243 

2. Hearing God's vrord 243 

3. Reading 244 

4. Singing psalms 244 

5. Meditation 245 

Sect. IV. Great cause to bless God for freedom from 

distractions 246 

Sect. V. That religion is an inward, difficult, and se- 
rious business 248 







That ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. — 1 Cor. vii.35. 

The words of the text present us with a design 
that beUevers as often aim at, and yet miss, as any 
in the world ; and which is so excellent and rare 
an attainment, that the Holy Ghost even makes 
two words on purpose to express it by, no where 
else found in the New Testament ; " to attend on 
the Lord without distraction." 


I. The matter what, " attend upon the 

II. The manner how, " without distrac- 

I. The matter what, " attend upon the Lord." 
The Greek word for " attend " in our copies, hath 
a remarkable elegancy in it. I. That you* may 
befit and ready for God's service, that religion and 
religious duties may sit fitly on you, that you may 
be ready to serve the Lord in duty or suffering. 
A most sweet frame of soul to be always bent and 
strung for the service of God. That man is meet 
for the master's use, that is prepared unto every 
good work. 2 Tim. ii. 21. How many choice 
opportunities for instruction, for reproof, for cha- 
rity, for prayer, do we hazard ; yea, and lose, for 
want of a soul quick and ready to do our duty ? 
2. That you may he fixed and settled in his service. 
The word intimates such an inseparable cleaving, 
such a marriage of the mind to the work of God, 
that we have in hand, as can by no means suffer a 
divorce. It should, be as hard a matter to break 
off the heart from God in his service, being married 
to him, and settled in holy duties, as it is to abstract 
the miser's soul from the world to which it is glued. 


II The manner how, " without distraction." 
The sense hereof is ahnost perverted by the em- 
phasis of the former word. Yet this word is not 
without its great weight : and it speaks a quiel^ un- 
shaken, and immoveable frame of soul, which cannot 
be whirled about with vain trifles. The soul is 
never at that holy quiet, as when it is directly 
ascending and communing with the Lord ; and 
therefore Satan exceedingly envies this celestial 
happiness of the saints, and if he cannot distract 
them from duty, be sure he will distract them in 
it ; and this he doth very much by the world, and 
the business thereof. And therefore, saith the 
apostle, guide your condition so, in this suffering 
season, as that it may not misguide your hearts, in 
} our attendance on the Lord ; that you may not 
attend on yourselves, nor on others ; but on Him 
who is the centre of an ordinance, and your all 
in all. 

Take the sum of all in this assertion, the main 
doctrine from the text, — // is a Christian'' s duty 
to attend on the Lord without distractions. 

And that I may from this text ajid doctrine pro- 
fitably handle the case, and endeavour the cure of 
distractions, I shall proceed to show these things. 


1. The nature of a distraction. 2. The kinds of 
distractions. 3. That it is our duty to attend upon 
the Lord without distractions. 4. The reasons 
why we must attend on the Lord without distrac- 
tions. 6. Answer the objections. 6. Describe 
the causes of distractions. 7. The evil of them. 
8. The cure of them. 9. Propound some encou- 
ragements under the burden of distractions. 10. 
Draw some inferences from this doctrine. 
And, First, of the nature of a distractiono 



The first head will be to describe a distraction. 
A distraction is a secret wandering of the heart 
from God, in some duty in hand. 

1. It is a wandering. As the remissness of 
our devotion shoots short, so distraction shoots 
awry. 'Tis said, Prov. xxvii. 8, " As a bird that 
wandereth from his nest, so is a man that wander- 
eth from his place." It is commonly known, the 
ready way to destroy the young in the shell, is dis- 


continuance of heut ; and to wander from our 
heavenly work, produces the dead offspring of un- 
frohtable duties. It would be almost as easy to 
trace and follow the bird in his vagaries, as the 
volatile and intricate imaginations of the heart. 
It is a digression; — you that are curious to ob- 
serve the minister in his digressions, how nmch 
more necessary is it to observe your own?* 

2. It is secret, in the heart. And this con- 
tracts the guilt and nature ©f hypocrisy upon a disr 
traction ; for we have a short and clear description 
of hypocrisy, which agrees too well with distrac- 
tions, Matt. XV. 7, 8 : " This people draweth nigh 
unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with 
their hps ; but their heart is far from me." To 
have a bended knee, a craving eye, are choice 
expressions of duty ; but without the impressions 
and attendance of the heart,| are double iniquity 
and flat hypocrisy. How empty would our con- 

* The same Greek word signifies the soul, and a butterfly, 
because our wandering imaginations make our wavering 
spirits like butterflies, puffed up and down with every blast 
of vanity. — Mr. Paget, 

f In the sacrifices of the law, the inwards still were oi- 
fered to God, tlie skin was for the priest. 


gregations be sometimes, if no more bodies were 
present than there are souls? And what abun- 
dance of sorry service hath our God, that nobody 

Yet how unknown soever these triflings of the 
mind are to others, or to ourselves, yet are they 
most palpable to the Lord, who sets our most 
" secret sins in the light of his countenance ;" 
Psalm xc. 8 ; and though these may seem small 
trifles, yet they fall under the rebuke of religion ; 
and are as sinful as they are secret : good in se- 
cret is the best goodness ; and secret sinlulness 
the worst sinfulness. 

3. This wandering of the heart is from God, 
for God is the object of worship. " To pray 
aright is to pray before the Lord: Zech. vii. 2L 
" To give thanks aright is to give thanks before 
God:" Dan. vi. 10: not in his sight only, for so 
you are when your hearts are worst; but good 
men looked on God when they spake to him, as 
we look on men when we speak to them. Me- 
lancthon saith, he had heard Luther in his secret 
prayers, so pra^» that one would verily think there 
were somebody in the room with him to whom 
he spake. 


4. This wandering is while some duty is in 
hand. That was a good answer of Nehemiah to 
his false friends, " I am doing a great work, so 
that I cannot come down. Why should the work 
cease while I leave it and come down to you?" 
Nehemiah vi. 3. He that is in a duty to God is 
about a very great work, and that work stands, or 
goes backward, every moment the heart is away ; 
and why should a temporal * vanity set back, and 
perhaps quite unravel your eternal concernment? 
How will that Spartan youth rise up in judgement 
against us, that holding the censer during Alex- 
ander's heathen sacrifices, would not stir his hand 
from its duty, though the burning coals fell there- 
on, and made his flesh to fry and smell in the 
presence of all the spectators ? 

* When King Ethelbert was at his devotions, news was 
brought of the Danish invasion at Essenden, but he neither 
omitted nor abbreviated his prayers ; he would hear no suit 
on earth, till he had made Iris requests in heaven, and after- 
wards he bravely vanquished them. — Dr. T. Fuller. 

20 A 'REMEDY ¥01\ 





Our second duty will be to take a view of the 
kinds or sorts of distractions ; and they are di- 
versified : 1. From the fountain whence they flow. 
2. From the matter whereof they consist. 3. 
From their adjuncts. For the first of them, you 
will find, 

1 . J[Iamj of our distractions may justly he fa- 
thered on the Devil. He is a spiritual substance, 
and is most properly conversant in spiritual sins ; 
he is completely skilled in all thoughts whatsoever, 
and therefore what he imparts here is of his own. 
The hiorh-priest Joshua could not be at his prayers 
for the Israel of God, but as Christ the angel of 
the covenant was on one hand, Satan was standing 
on the other, Zcch. iii. 1, and he was got at the 


readier hand,* the right hand, the hand of action, 
that he might hinder him more dexterously in his 
devotion. And when Satan stands on the right 
hand, the prayer is in danger to become sin. Psal. 
cix. 6, 7. When we are most serious before the 
Angel, the Devil is whispering at our elbow ; and 
who can be dull and watchless, when God is on 
one hand, and Satan on the other? 

The Devil is afraid of a serious lively prayer at 
his heart ; he knows that can pull down in a minute 
what he hath been contriving for a thousand years ; 
and therefore, if he cannot withold us from holy 
duties, he will do his utmost to disturb us in them. 
Hence the vision of that holy man who in the 
whole market saw but one devil busy (for there 
Self was at hand, Satan had no need to bestir him;) 
but in the conj^regation there were multitudes of 
them : all their skill and power being little enough 
to ward oft' poor souls from Jesus Christ. Alas ! 
we pray, and hear, and live as securely, as if there 
were no Devil at all. 

* " A wise man's heart is at his right hand." Ecclot-. 
X. 2. i. e. His heart is ready and prepared to every good 
work. — Annot. in loc. 


And his suggestions in religious duties are usu- 
ally more violent and impetuous,* more dreadtul 
and impious, than those which are of our own breed- 
ing; called therefore darts, and fiery darts of that 
wicked one. Though he lay these suggestions ot 
his at thy door, yet they will be counted in the num- 
ber of his sins and of thy afflictions. 

2. Our distractions proceed from the mind and 
understanding. The vanity of the mind alienates 
us from the life of God, and from communion with 
him. When a present and seasonable petition or 
instruction is conveyed through the ear into the un- 
derstanding, it wantonly plays therewith, and takes 
occasion to run out on some contiguous notion ; 
and from that to another and at length rests and 
dwells on some alien and unseasonable point, till 
the gales of the good Spirit, and the present matter 
be overpast. And thus by a default in the under- 
standing, we seek not God, Psal. liii. 2, nor find him 
as we might; and that excellent faculty, which 
would penetrate into the divine mysteries, and 
should guide the will and heart unto God, by the 

* Joab could hinder David from weeping for Absalom, 
not from numbering the people, to wliich Siitan stirred him 
up. — D. Arrows. 


ignis fatmis of its unmortified vanity, misleads us 
from the chief good, and entangles us in distrac- 
tions. We read " of a filthiness of the spirit," 2 
Cor. vii. 1, whereof surely this is a part, and must 
be cleansed in them that will *' perfect holiness in 
the fcarofGod." 

3. ' Some distractions proceed from the fancy, 
a most busy faculty, which is most unruly and least 
sanctified in a holy man. Sometimes by the help of 
memory, stepping back into things past, she brings 
into the most solemn worship a thousand passages 
that are past and gone, and rolling them in the head, 
carries soul and all quite away from God : hence 
it is, you often hear them say, " such a thing came 
into my mind at sermon or prayer," that was for- 
gotten weeks or months before : yea, daring to 
re-act former sins by contemplative wickedness in 
the very sight of God, which doubles the guilt by 
repetition, and makes your former sins exceeding 
sinful. In this sense that is true, " Better is the 
sight of the eyes, than the wandering of desire;" 
Eccles. vi. 9 ; there is something more of evil in 
these second contemplations, than in the first com- 
missions. Sometimes the fancy will create a world 
of figments or notions out of nothing, and multiply 


impertinent thoughts upon no ground, and to no pur- 
pose ; and can sally out of the present matter to 
every adjacent business, and make a great ado to 
bring nothing to pass. " There is a path which no 
fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not 
seen," Job xxvii. 8 ; the fancy can find out such a 
way ; thus God is not in all, hardly in any, of our 
thoughts, when we pretend to treat him with the 
greatest solemnity. 

And sometimes the fancy breeds distractions by 
forecasting things to come ; so many a man can 
most easily, on the Sabbath, contrive his business 
for all the week after ; and the poor woman in the 
corner of a prayer order the business of all the 
house for a day. Hence many an affair is cursed 
in our hands, by our unhappy contrivance thereof 
in the time of worship. Thus we have some saying 
(in their hearts no doubt), "When will the new 
moon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the 
sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?" Amos 
viii. 5. And it is well if they have no com- 
panions in this assembly, who are making their 
hay, measuring their corn, counting their coin, if 
not providing for their lusts, while they seem 
earnest with the Lord negotiating for eternity. 


4. Our distractions in GocVs iv or ship are some- 
times occasioned by our outward senses. Most fre- 
quently by the eye ; a wandering eye mostly hath a 
wandering heart ; for when the eye discovers any 
new, pleasing, or ridiculous object, it presently 
brings news thereof unto the heart ; and that de- 
bates and studies upon it, to the grieving of God's 
Spirit, and cooling of our own : and when that is 
over, a fresh sight presents itself, and the eye is 
ready for that again, and leads the heart into a 
maze of follies. We read, '♦ My eye affecteth my 
heart, because of all the daughters of the city," 
Lam. iii. 51, that is with grief for their calamity. 
There is a reciprocal working it seems ; the heart 
at first affects the eye, and the eye can affect the 
heart with grief: even in like manner, when the 
sons or daughters of the city enter the assembly, 
the eye affects the heart ; stirs, diverts, kindles the 
heart ; and the heart corrupts, stains, and transmits 
its folUes by the eye ; the precious soul meanwhile 
suffering between them, and the holy God and his 
services being wofully slighted. 

You resolve in this duty, I will not swerve from 
God, nor step aside into the least distraction ; but 
you bolt the door and let your enemy in at the win- 


dow. The thoughts that are shut out at the street- 
door steal in at the back door, if you do not as well 
"make a covenant with your eyes, as keep your 
feet, when you enter into the house of God.'^ In 
this sense the woman and man also have need of 
the covering of a holy and constant watch, " be- 
cause of the angels," the wicked children of hell, 
that ride abroad in the air, to carry away our hearts 
from God. 



Secondly : Distractions are distinguished by the 
matter whereof they consist ; wliich is sometimes 

1. Good. It is Satan's ambition and triumph, 
when he can aflront God with his own matters ; as 
to bring in shreds of sermons in the heat of prayer ; 
and long passages which you have read, to keep 
out material points, that you should be hearing : he 
will hold your husband's picture before you, while 
you should look on your husband's face, and at 
length delude you with shadows instead of sub- 


Stance. A good thing in its nature, may become a 
bad thing in its use, when it is out of season. 
Jewels misplaced may grow worthless ; a diamond 
on the finger is an ornament, but in the bladder a 
torment ; and God dislikes his own things in the 
Devil's way, little less than the Devil's things 

As when one is playing in concert, as Mr. White 
remarks, if we stay on any note, while they who 
play the other parts go on, that which at first made 
excellent harmony, becomes now harsh, and spoils 
the music : so those thoughts that were sweet and 
musical, while they were suitable and pertinent to 
thy prayer, become harsh by dwelling unseason- 
ably upon them. 

2. Sometimes our wanderings are made up 
of things indifferent in themselves; and these 
things by mis-timing them, are debauched, and 
made very evil and offensive unto God. As to 
talk with, or to see a friend, is in itself indifferent ; 
but to perform this in the heat of harvest may be 
folly. There are a hundred harmless thoughts 
both of things and persons, which crowding into 
the sacred presence of God, and interposing "be- 
tween the soul and its Maker, while the matters of 


eternity are debating and concluding, are a great 
offence, and deserve to be whipped, and posted and 
sent away. 

3. The matter of them sometimes is absolutely 
bad, proud, wanton, malicious thoughts : blasphe- 
mous thoughts, as whether God is, when we are 
praying to him, and the like. Able to sink us at 
any time, but sins of a double dye in the worship 
of God ; because there the special and piercing 
eye of God is upon us : as theft therefore is penal 
in all places, by reason of its intrinsic evil, much 
more criminal is it before a judge in the court : 
even so are these thoughts guilty and base any 
where, but when they shall dare to intrude into the 
presence of the Judge of Heaven and Earth, as it 
were daring a jealous God, this is prodigious sin 
and greatly provokes him. So " They come unto 
me as the people cometh, and they sit before me 
as my people ; with their mouths they show much 
love, but their heart goeth after their covetous- 
ness." Ezek. xxxiii. 31. What more sweet than 
a religious mouth ? What more bitter than a cove- 
tous heart ? Especially when the heart goeth out 
after covetousness, pursues and follows it in the 
sight of God. Oh, dreadful ! God is pursuing and 


following the sinner with Christ and mercy in his 
arms, and the sinner the while, with his very heart, 
is going after sin. And thus that house which 
God calls "the house of prayer," we make a den 
of lust, malice, covetousness, and sin. 



Thirdly: Distractions are distinguished by their 
adjuncts. For, 

1. Some are sudden. As the church, " Or ever 
I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots 
of Amminadab," Cant. vi. 12 ; and happy is that 
soul that is so sweetly and suddenly carried after 
Jesus Christ. So sometimes our treacherous soul, 
before we know or are aware of it, makes us like 
those hasty chariots ; which misery comes about 
through want of watchfulness, which like a porter 
should keep the door, and turn all stragglers aw^ay. 
A thought is a sudden motion, and by it we may 
quickly step into heaven or hell ; now these 
thoughts do steal in so suddenly, that we fall to 


muse how they came in, by what door they entered, 
and so are entangled in more distractions by 
tracing the former, and commit new errors by dis- 
covering the old. 

But now other wanderings are more premedi- 
tated, and whereinto the soul falls more leisurely, 
and wallows therein, either of choice, or without 
much interruption ; and these have much more 
guilt and mischief in them. 

2. Some distractions are umvilling.* When 
the heart like a good archer aims directly at com- 
munion with the Lord, Satan or his corruptions jog 
him at the elbow, and make him miss the mark. 
This indeed is a sad disappointment, for a noble 
soul to embrace the dunghill, instead of the Sun of 
Rio-hteousness ; for a man to loose those sweet 
words and minutes which might be had with God ; 
it is a sad mischance indeed, but which is common 
with man, wherein if the soul cry out as the forced 

* Of these Mr. Capcl speaks thus : While thy prayer 
comes out of a spiritual habit of grace, and is set on work 
at first by an actual intention of the mind, a virtual intention 
may serve all along after, though there bu some roving 
thoughts; I say, may bcrvc to make them current at the 
ihronc of jirace, and in the court of conscience. 


virgin, Deut. xxii. 27, it shall not be imputed to her, 
especially when there was neither previous pro- 
vocation, nor subsequent consent. And this is 
the case of blasphemous thoughts, which are like 
lightning cast into a room, that carries horror, 
but springs from no cause thereof in the room-; so 
these thoughts come in upon thee, amaze and ter- 
rify, surprise thee against thy w ill : but be of good 
comfort, neither leave off thy duties ; for thy pray- 
ers will do thee more good than these can do thee 
harm, nor hasten from them to gratify Satan ; for 
if God be not able to protect thee in the discharge 
of thy duty, it is time to think of another master ; 
but complain of Satan to God, parley not with 
them, but divert thy thoughts, and cry to that God 
the more, whom he tempts thee to blaspheme. 

But others are ivilling distractions, which are 
the ordinary effect of an unspiritual and uprepared 
heart : to such a heart the whole duty is a distrac- 
tion ; when a vain and earthly soul, like a truant 
scholar, keeps out of his master's sight from 
choice, and with content, and is any where better 
than at his lesson ; what little rest would such a 
soul find in heaven? or what true delight can he 
take in the most holy presence of God above, that 


can find no rest and sweetness in his presence 
below ? 

3. Again, some distractions are long, and do 
consist of a concatenation of vain thoughts, when 
they do lodge in the heart. The Lord still calling 
at the door, and saying, "How long shall vain 
thoughts lodge within thee?" These do much 
alter the complexion of the soul, and argue too 
deep a habit of vanity therein. It is a true saying, 
Though we cannot hinder the birds from flying 
over our heads, yet we may disturb their roosting 
or making nests in our hair. So, though we can- 
not well hinder the sudden suggestion of a vani 
thought, yet we may trouble its quiet resting in the 
soul. Yet such strange subtlety is there in us, 
that we can keep God absent from our hearts a 
long time, yea, even when we are employed in a 
prayer, and be tampering with the world or sin all 
the while, the soul never coming in till the amen of 
a prayer do awaken us. 

But other distractions are but sJiort, only a step 
out of the way, and in again, and the soul catcheth 
the faster hold of God. And, indeed, when the 
soul doth follow hard after God, as every one 
should do in his service, though it stumble, as it 


often happens to the most earnest in the way, yet it 
recovers to its advantage, being more zealous after ; 
the fall of the former being Uke that of the swine, 
who lies still in her mire ; the fall of the latter, like 
the sheep that falling riseth, and runs the faster. 
And thus you have seen the several kinds of dis- 
tractions, which was the second general head, 






In the third place I shall prove, that to attend 
upon the Lord without distraction is our duty 
which will clearly follow by demonstrating, 1. 
The possibility of it ; 2. The necessity of it. 

First, It is possible thus to serve our God. The 
sluggard, it is true, finds a lion in his way to every 
duty, and nothing is possible, because nothing is 
welcome. — There is no duty so easy, but it is dif- 
ficult to the negligent ; none so hard, but it is easy 
through divine grace to the diligent. Perfection 
herein I assert not ; but that we may attain it in 
the substance and sincerity thereof, is proved : 

1 . From the precept of God. The wise and 
merciful God commands nothing, but he finds or 


makes it possible ; his commands are not snares, 
but rules, yea and helps. When a master com- 
mands, power and assistance wait not on his com- 
mands ; the servant's strength must perform the 
master's will : but here are the commands of a 
father, which when they outstrip his child's strength, 
are still accompanied with his own assistance ; and 
the chair which the weak child cannot bring in, he 
helps to fetch himself. Now behold the divine 
precept, " Serve liim in truth with all your heart." 
1 Sam. xii. 24. What truth is there, while we ap- 
pear to serve the Lord, and indeed do not think 
upon him at ail ! Or how is that with all the heart, 
while there is not half, nor any thereof many times ! 
While we can pray, and plot, and think, and look, 
and begin our devotion only at the end of the duty. 
Our merciful Father will not impose an impractica- 
ble law upon us. It may by accident become im- 
possible, but it is not so in itself. 

2. In regard of the power of God it is possible. 
Ours is the duty, but his is the strength. God and 
his servant can do any thing. When you look on 
a hard task, and your heart fails you, raise your eye 
of faith, and you will find God the strength of your 
heart ; " I can do all things through Christ that 


strengthened me," Phil. iv. 13 : lo, here the omni- 
potency of a worm ! If all things, that is all my 
duty, then this among the rest. But you will say, 
This was an apostle, a person of great strength 
and grace : yet still the acts were from the man, 
but the strength was from Christ; for the same 
person saith, " Not that we are sufficient of our- 
selves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our 
sufficiency is of God." 2 Cor. iii. 6. Who, though 
he be at the same time terrible out of his holy 
places, and darts his curses on them that do his 
work negligently, yet " the God of Israel is he that 
giveth strength and power to his people, blessed be 
God." Psal. Ixviii. 35. He gives, that is, he is 
ready to give it out ; but, alas ! his stock hes 
almost dead by him ; and i^ew sue to him in good 
earnest. His power is at your service, and there- 
fore serve yourselves of it. 

3. In regard o£the 'promises of God, this is pos- 
sible. To every command there is a promise.* 
The command finds us work, the promise finds us 
strength. As to this, some think that clause in our 

+ Compare Dcut, x. J6, with chap, x^x, 6; and so 1 John, 
ji. 27, 28. 


magna charta, Ezek. xi. 19, of one heart, is in- 
tended this way ; wherein the Lord promiseth an 
united heart to his servants. A hypocrite hath 
more hearts than one ; a heart for his pleasures, a 
heart for his pride, here and there his affections are 
stragghng; now saith God I will give one heart. 
There is another promise, " I will put my fear into 
their hearts, that they shall not depart from me ;" 
Jer. xxxii. 40 ; neither in whole nor in part, unless 
the fault be in yourselves. Now these promises 
are amen in Christ, and do belong to every soul 
that is in Christ, who may claim and have the 
benefit of them. 

4. Add hereunto the experience of many ser- 
vants of God, who by a habit of holy watchfulness, 
have attained to considerable strength against 
these wanderings. Hope of relief makes many 
complain of their distractions, when fear of pride 
hinders them from divulging their attainments ; 
and that which by the grace of God is possible for 
others, with the same grace is possible for you. 




Secondly, it is necessary, and therefore no 
doubt our duty, to attend on God without distrac- 
tions. It not only may be done, but must be done. 
You will say, they are happy that can do it, but 
they may be safe enough that cannot ; thus the 
heart and substance of religion is counted a high 
attainment but not a duty. I shall show therefore 
that this soul-attendance on the Lord is necessary. 

1. It is necessary to the essence or being of the 
duty. As the soul is necessary to the being of a 
man, the body is no man, but a corpse without it i 
even so a solemn duty with a wandering heart, is 
but a corpse of a duty. " Let us hft up our hearts 
with our hands to God in the heavens." Lam. iii. 
41. The elevation of the hands signifies nothing, 
without lifting up the heart with them. If prayer 
be the lifting up of the heart, what arc words with- 
out the heart? A man may spend the same time 
and the samn words in a serious and in a heartless 


duty, and yet the latter stand for nothing tor want 
of intenseness and attention. " There is none that 
calleth on thy name because none stirreth up him- 
self to take hold on thee." Isaiah Ixiv. 7. If a 
man come to the service of God, and do not excite 
and stir up his soul to exercise grace, as a man 
will blow a dull fire, his faith, zeal, and humility ; 
if he do not blow them up, but suffer his heart to 
run at random, the holy God counts all the rest as 
a cypher without a figure, it stands for nothing. 

2. // is necessary to comfort in the duty. The 
service of God is a sweet pot of ointment of a most 
refreshing odour; the gracious soul is refreshed 
therein as a bed of spices. Distractions are the 
dead flies, Eccles. x. 1, which dropping into this 
sweet ointment, cause it to send forth a noisome 
smell, displeasing to God and unpleasing to the 
soul. Where can the soul be better than with 
God? what sweeter company than that which 
angels keep, or pleasanter employment than con- 
versing in heaven ? But wandering thoughts arise, 
and like a black cloud quite hide the sweet beams 
of that Sun of Righteousness from the soul, and 
then your comfort is gone. The sweetness of 
music consists in its harmony; when the strings 


are out of tune, or untunably touched, it is but a 
harsh sound, there is no music : wandering thoughts 
are hke strings out of tune, there is no music in 
that duty, the Holy Ghost goes away and hkes it 
not ; and the soul likes it not, is weary of it ; there 
is no sweetness in that duty. It is a tried maxim, 
The more seriousness, the more sweetness; the 
nearer to God, the warmer and merrier is the soul, 
which inward comfort is some reward to the heart 
of a christian, when his particular suit is denied ; 
so that " in keeping of God's commandments there 
is a great reward." The choicest of the Spirit's 
seahng comforts are bestowed in the lively service 
of God. 

3. It is necessary to the prosperity of a duty. 
*' If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will 
not hear me." Psal. Ixvi. 8. In God's service the 
soul should be regarding God alone. If I regard 
a corruption, instead of Christ, if when some vain 
object presents itself, I turn my back on God to 
treat with vanity, the Lord will not hear me, nor 
regard me. We read of the holy Hannah, that 
" she spake in her heart, only her lips moved not, 
her voice was not heard;" 1 Sam. i. 13; yet this 
wordless prayer did the business ; lip-labour, if no 


more, is but lost labour. The earnestness and 
labouring of the heart prevails. The Lord our 
God hath a book of remembrance for them that 
think on his name, while he turns the deaf ear 
to them that cry, Lord, Lord, and do not inwardly 
adore him. In short, thus saith the Lord God, 
" Every man," child or not child, " that setteth 
up his idols in his heart, and cometh to the pro- 
phet," or sits demurely before the preacher, "I 
the Lord will answer him that cometh, according 
to the multitude of his idols." Ezek. xiv. 4. He 
that sets his heart on vanity, vanity shall be his 
recompense ; if he will not affect his own heart, he 
shall never affect mine. * He that withdraws his 
heart in asking, will find the Lord to withdraw his 
hand in giving what he asks. 

4. It is necessmnj to communion luilh Jesus 
Christ in a duty. Which, though it be a paradox 
to unregenerate men, is the very business and 
next end of the worship of God ; which, if you 
lose, that duty is lost. Jesus Christ calls, *' 
my dove, let me see thy countenance, let me hear 
thy voice ; for sweet is thy voice, and thy coun- 

* As long an Moses held up his hand Israel prevailed, and 

iio longer. 



tenance is comely." Cant. ii. 14. Now if, when 
he ^vaits thus to be gracious, you wait not for his 
grace, nor watch for the blessed appearances of 
the Holy Ghost, you will lose that happiness, you 
will lose your labour, and at length your souls. 
How are you troubled, if you are abroad when 
some good customer comes to your shop : it 
troubles you when that is bestowed on another 
which was intended for you. sirs, the Spirit 
of God is a good customer, and when he comes 
and you are away, you are absent to your loss ; 
and therefore keep at home the next time. 

How unmannerly would it be for the subject to 
knock at his prince's chamber, and, knowing he 
is within, and waits for him, step away about some 
frivolous trifle when he hath done? The prince 
appears, opens his royal door, and calls ; but the 
foolish man is gone. How fairly may he shut his 
door against such a guest, and make him wait in 
attendance long before he sees his face? Ah, 
how seldom do we see the face of God in an 
ordinance, or much endeavour to do so ! " My 
soul followeth hard after thee," or, as in the He- 
brew, " is glued to thee." — Psal. Ixiii. 8. That 
soul, and that alone, that follows hard after God, 


by the earnest intenseness of zeal and love, and 
which cannot be content without him, that heart 
shall cleave to him, and have rare communion 
with him. 

Thus you may plainly see, that to attend upon 
the Lord without distraction is a duty, which was 
the third point to be handled. 






The fourth point is to show the reasons for the 
doctrine and duty of attending on the Lord without 
distraction. And they are drawn, 1. From the 
nature of God. 2. From the nature of his wor- 
ship. 3. From the nature of our condition. 4. 
From the nature of distractions. 

The first reason is taken from the nature of 
God, each of his attributes plead for this, espe- 

1. TJie greatness of God. The greater the per- 
sonage, the greater the reverence, and the more 
solemn your attendance should be. Hence, Elihu 
cries, " Teach us what wc shall say to him, for 


we cannot order our speech by reason of dark- 
ness." — Job xxxvii. 19. It is a bold adventure 
to speak to him, what is it then to trifle with him ? 
wilt thou speak to God, nay pray to God, and not 
so much as look that way when thou speakest to 
him? This is to put on him the robes and. title 
of a king, and use him like a slave. A prince 
may converse with two or three of liis servants 
at a time ; but it is impudent for a servant to talk 
to two or three princes at a time. The great 
Jehovah can speak with tliee, and a thousand 
more, and do all your errands at a time : but, alas, 
thou art too poor a worm to entertain the great 
Jehovah and other matters at once. We are his 
creatures. " Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One 
of Israel, and his Maker." — Isa. xlv. 11. If a 
servant must not be frivolous before his master, 
when he is receiving his commands, who dares be 
so before his Maker, who can as easily reward or 
ruin us, as I can turn over a leaf in this Bible? 
This he himself gives for the reason of that dread- 
ful curse upon the " deceiver, that having a male 
in his flock, offers to God a corrupt thing. For 
I am a great king saith the Lord of hosts, and my 
name is dreadful amonji the heathen." — Mai. i. 


14. Which of you will be thinking of your wives, 
or children, or business, when you are offering a 
petition to a great king, or run after feathers, when 
he is speaking his mind to you? Thou takest 
God to be such a one as thyself, or else thou 
wouldest never do it. Remember a great God 
must be worshipped with ])rofound veneration, and 
the most serious affections. A man must wor- 
ship God, as if he were in heaven ; oh ! if thou 
wert there among those myriads of saints and 
angels, with what care, and humility, and earnest- 
ness, wouldest thou pour out thy heart to him, or 
hear his words to thee. 

2. The holiness of God is another reason, who 
is so sacred, that an unholy thought is abomina- 
tion to him ; most especially in his holy service. 
Who can by an eye of faith behold the "Lord 
sitting on a throne high and lifted up, and his train 
filling the temple, and the seraphim crying one 
to another, and saying. Holy, holy, holy, is the 
Lord of Hosts," Isa. vi. 1,2, and suffer his heart 
to be ravished away with transitory toys in such 
a sacred presence? Are the seraphim amazed 
at his holiness, and we untransported ? Their 
thoughts are continually terminated upon him, and 


shoiikl ours be always flinching from him? The 
holy Lord of Hosts will not allow it. If you will 
not sanctify him, he will sanctify himself. If you 
that worship him will not bear witness, by your 
serious attendance to his holiness, he must bear 
witness to it by his judgements on you ; which, 
indeed, are not always visible, but ever certain; 
not a man in the congregation but the holy God 
is sanctified by him, or upon him. Little do wc 
know what invisible dreadful effects there are of 
this daily in our congregations. And, if our dear 
Redeemer did not stand as a screen between us 
and his wrath, the best of us would quickly feel 
the e fleets of his displeasure. 

3. The omniscience of God is a valid reason 
against distractions. " All things are naked and 
opened to him with whom we have to do," Heb. 
iv. 13 ; not only naked on the outside of us, but 
cut up and anatomized in the inside. That sharp 
and piercing eye looks through and through us, 
and neither doth nor can look beside us. Whither 
can I go from thy spirit? and whither can I flee 
from thy presence ? Shall the husband fix his eye 
on his wife, and she, meanwhile, dart her glances 
on her [)arauioiu-? Is this reasonable, or tolera- 


ble? Get out of his sight, and trifle on. Steal 
into some corner where he sees you not, and be 
truants, and spare not. Be but an eye- servant to 
God, and we will ask no more. Be serious while 
he sees you ; dally not while he holds you the 
candle. A curious eye requires a careful servant. 

Object. But this is spoken with great freedom. 
I see no one but the minister and the people ; see- 
ing is believing : I know no one that seeth me. 

Ans7v. 1. No more dost thou see that faculty 
by which thou seest. Is there, therefore, no such 
faculty? Are there no spirits, because thou never 
sawest them? When did you see the wind? and 
yet you doubt not of it. Nay, hath not he declared 
to thee, what is thy thought, Amos iv. 13, in many 
a sermon ? 

2. There is another eye by which God's pre- 
sence in his ordinances is seen, which thou hast 
not. That is an eye of faith which, if fixed in 
thy heart, would quickly make thee cry, " How 
dreadful is this place ! This is no other than the 
house of God, and the gate of heaven !" If an 
hundred credible persons affirmed they saw a 
great man in the congregation, you would beheve 
them, though not seen by you, and would conclude 


it your own inadvertency. Hundreds there daily 
are that do avouch they saw, felt, heard, embraced, 
the gracious presence of God, and therefore con- 
clude it was your bhndness, not on account of his 
distance, that you saw him not. 



The second reason is taken from the nature of 
his worship. 

1. It is reasonable worship; not only conso- 
nant to the rules of reason, and backed by the 
most rational principles, but must be managed as a 
rational act. Now it is a most irrational thing to 
converse with God without a heart ; this is a silly 
thing, as " Ephraim is called a silly dove, without 
heart." Hos. vii. 11. A dove without spirit, and 
a silly dove without reason or judgement. God 
had rather hear the roaring of a Hon, than a heart- 
less prayer; he delights more in the chirping of 
birds, than in singing of psalms without under- 
standing ; for these do what they can, and so are 


accepted; but brutish service from a reasonable 
creature is intolerable. Is it* reasonable that you 
should cry out for the Spirit, and think on the 
flesh? be hearing about another world, and ru- 
minating on this? your eyes directed to heaven, 
and your heart in the ends of the earth ? the tongue 
busy, and the soul idle ? the knee devout, and the 
thoughts loose? there is no coherence, no reason 
in this. When ye work, work ; and when ye pray, 
pray ; and do it with understanding. " What is 
it then! I will pray with the spirit, and will pray 
with the understanding also ; I will sing with the 
spirit, and will sing with the understanding also." 
1 Cor. xiv. 15. 

Consider, that else thou art as a madman before 
God, and God hath no need of madmen ; if one 
should come to thee about business of life and 
death, and after a word or two therein should run 
from one impertinent thing to another, would you 
not think him mad ? If thy thoughts were put into 

* The Egj-ptians chose among all fruits the peach to offer 
to their gods, because the fruit is like a man's lieart, the 
leaf like hia tongue; the heart and tongue should go to- 


words and mingled with thy prayers, what strange 
mad prayers would they be ? 

2. It is spiritual icorship, and therefore you 
may not be distracted in it. " The true worship- 
pers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, 
for the Father seeketh such to worship him." Job 
iv. 23, 24. Others may seek to worship the 
Father, but the Father seeketh such to worship 
him who worship in spirit and in truth ; in spirit, 
and so not like the formal Jews; in truth, and so 
not like the ignorant gentiles. And then, verse 
24, "God is a spirit, and must be worshipped." 
Here is must and shall, and reason for it. As a 
spirit can do nothing at eating, so a carcass can 
do nothing at praying. The most elegant tongues 
on earth cannot make one effort at prayer; no, 
the soul must be in it, and the soul must be busy 
too. If we had only an idol to serve, the body 
were enough ; but God is a spirit, and camiot be 
conversed with without the spirit, yea, and the 
whole spirit also. Fond man, that thinks with 
his narrow soul to deal with God and somewhat 
else, who alone is immense, and beyond our great- 
est capacity ! He must be taken up, and go out 
of the world in a sense, that will get into heaven. 


The soul on the hp, and the soul in the ear, do 
perform work in the service of God. 

3. It is siveet work. " Yea, they shall sing in 
the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the 
Lord." Psal. cxxxviii. 5. Mark, shall sing: — 
their spirits shall neither droop nor step aside. 
He that attends on the Lord hath a most sweet 
employment; now the mind useth not to object 
to delightful music, or to dislike an enchanting 
song. the gracious presence of God ! his sweet 
smiles ! and blessed love-tokens, that can tran- 
sport angels, sure they may engage the heart of 
man, and sufficiently fill it. 

Read the Canticles, and say then, Is not con- 
verse with God a heaven upon earth? and how 
far is heaven from distracted thoughts? Sad and 
severe things afflict the mind ; it would flit from 
such subjects, but sweet employment engages all 
the heart ; next to dwelling in heaven, is the soul 
flying to heaven in an ordinance ; our driest duties 
yield us least comfort ; the nearer the sun the 
warmer. More close to God more sweet you 
will find him, and never more "joyful than in the 
house of prayer." 




The third reason is taken from the nature of 
our condition, and that is this : 

1. We cannot live without God. In him we 
live as to our natural hfe; every breath is fetched 
from him ; so in our spiritual life, the life of the 
soul is He who made it. A world without a sun 
is dark ; a body without a soul is dead ; but a soul 
without God is dark, is dead, is damned. It is 
true, men feed, and sing, and exist without God 
in the world, but he that lives truly, lives by faith ; 
the other life beasts live ; they eat, and drink, and 
Avork, but know not God ; but if you will define 
the life of a soul, God must be in the beginning, in 
the midst, and in the end of it. 

3. Our only umy of communion iviih God is 
in an ordinance. This is the river, the streams 
whereof make glad the heart. Were a city be- 
sieged by mortal enemies round about, and no re- 
lief to be conveyed but by the river that waters it, 
how fatal to the inhabitants would the stopping of 


that river be ; that city must starve or yield ; the 
ordinary supphes that a Christian cannot be with- 
out, come swimming down from heaven through 
the ordinances of God ; distractions stop the river, 
hinder prayer from ascending to God, prevent in- 
struction from descending into the heart, intercept 
commerce and starve the soul. The zeal of the 
Jews was eminent this way, of whom Josephus 
relates, that when Pompey's soldiers shot at the 
thickest of them in the siege of Jerusalem, yet 
amidst those arrows did they go and perform their 
rites, as though there had been peace. Why, thy 
prayer is thy ambassador ; distractions cut off the 
feet, and " he that sendeth a message by the hand 
of a fool, cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage." 
Prov. xxvi. 6. A wandering prayer is a message 
by the hand of a fool, and that man is like to drink 
damage that useth it. A man is a poor thing with- 
out God, and God is not ordinarily met with but 
in an ordinance. 

3. Ml our strength and heart is too little for 
this business. All our understanding too little to 
apprehend his rare perfections ; all our affections 
too weak and shallow to love, embrace, and de- 
light in him; hence we are obliged to love and 


SO to serve the Lord our God with all our heart, 
and with all our soul, and with all our strength. 
Mark xii. 33. That is with every faculty of the 
soul, and with the utmost strength of every faculty. 
Now if it be hard enough to climb the hill unto 
God with wings, how shall we ascend with these 
weights about us, or think to please with half a 
heart, when the whole is too little? for "he is a 
great King, and his name is dreadful among the 
heathen ;" when all the water in the pool will but 
turn the mill, that miller is very foolish who by 
twenty channels lets out the water otherways. 
The intense and earnest heart is little enough to 
converse with God, all the water in our pool will 
but turn the mill. What then can the negligent 
heart bring to pass, and how unlikely are we to 
obtain with the great God with the negligeijt ap- 
proaches of a trivial spirit, with only a part of a 
little heart? 




The fourth reason is taken from the nature of 

1. They divide the heart and disable it wholly. 
Now a divided heart can do nothing at all ; " their 
heart is divided, now shall they be found faulty." 
Hos. X. 2. If one heart divided from another 
make a fault, much more faulty is one heart di- 
vided within itself. Hence it comes to pass that 
Satan offers, as the false mother did about the 
living child : " Let it be neither mine nor thine, 
but divide it." 1 Kings iii. 26. If he cannot block 
your way to the presence of God, and make good 
his claim to the living child, as she would have 
done, then, with might and main, he promotes all 
imaginable diversions to part the soul, and cries. 
Lord, let it be neither thine nor mine, but divide 
it ; well knowing, that as the child, so the heart 
while entire is a living and lively heart, but divide 
it and destroy it; as he that runs at once after 
two hares, catches neither, so the pursuit of two 


objects at once spoils both. He that thhiks to 
treat the Creator and the creature at the same 
time, enjoys neither of them ; and thus the vain 
heart of man by overdoing, undoes itself, and 
reaching at two matters, spoils them both. 

2. These distractions frustrate the ordinance, 
and cause the great name of God to be taken m 
vain. Instead of forcing the heavens, these do 
but beat the air, and cannot reach the heart of 
God, because they never reach your own. And 
this is one of the follies of a roving heart, that it 
consumes as much time in a senseless as in a se- 
rious duty, and yet doth nothing in it, brings no- 
thing to pass. And so the holy God stands over 
the heedless sinner with Job's words, "When 
shall vain words have an end?" Job xvi. 3. I am 
weary with this tinkling cymbal ; either pray in 
earnest, or pray not at all ; hear in earnest, or hear 
not at all ; as good not at all as never the better. 
The service of God requires a man, not a shadow; 
yea, all a man, and more than a man, our spirits 
and God's spirit also. Those that tremble at the 
profane man's taking God's name in vain, should 
make a conscience, lest they do it themselves, 


lest they be damned for their oaths, and you for 
your prayers ; because you wrong God's majesty 
under the pretence of serving him, and so affront 
him with more solemnity. 

3. They contract more sin upon the soul. We 
read " that Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, 
took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, 
and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire be- 
fore the Lord." Levit. x. 1. And the Lord took it in 
high displeasure, " and with strange fire consumed 
them." Sins of ordinances are often extraordinary 
sins ; as sacrilege is a greater sin than plain theft, be- 
cause it is a purloining of what is consecrated; so a 
sin in worship hath this aggravation, and that it is in a 
place, and presence, and business, that is set apart 
for communion with God. Hence it comes to pass, 
that many of God's children have had grievous 
pangs and terror of conscience on their death-bed 
for ordinance sins. He that should be cleansing 
himself from his sins, and instead of that increases 
them, makes his sin exceeding sinful. Oh, what 
need then have we to pray, " Turn away mine 
eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me 
in thy way." Psal. cxix. 39. 


And these are some of the reasons that confirm 
and enforce this practical doctrine, that we should 
" attend upon the Lord without distractions," and 
so you have the fourth general head. 






But because there is no duty so clear that our 
sinful hearts will embrace, if any show of contra- 
diction can be produced, I shall wipe away all pos- 
sible objections against this duty, which is the fifth 
general head to be handled. 

Object 1. It is impossible thus to attend on God 
without distractions. Such is the variety of ob- 
jects, such the imbecility of our nature, such the 
weakness of our graces, such the suddenness 
and swiftness of a thought, that none but angels 
can do this. You press that which is impractica- 
ble ; it can never be. 

Jlnsw. 1. Though this objection hath been re- 
plied to before, yet seeing it recurs again, I answer, 

1. Perfection herein is impossible in this life; 
not but that a prayer or other ordinance may be 


attended with that intenseness, as to exchide every 
wandering thought that would step in ; but to be 
perfectly free in every duty from them, is rather to 
be wished than hoped for in this hfe. That an- 
gehc perfection is reserved for heaven ; this evan- 
geUcal perfection may be here attained, which is 
the prevalence of grace against them : and not only 
a will, but a watch and an endeavour to be utterly 
rid of them. 

2. And in this sense, there is no divine precept 
impossible : though our Lord Jesus saith, " With* 
out me ye can do nothing," John xv. 5, yet the 
apostle asserts, " I can do all things through Christ 
that strengtheneth me." Phil. iv. 13. If all things, 
then why not this? though it were impossible in 
itself, yet is it possible with God's help ; we are 
prone to think that we can compass easy things by 
our own strength, and that difficult things are too 
hard for God. Have you ever tried to the utmost 
what God and you can do? could not you have 
heard a sermon better if a naked sword had been 
suspended by a single hair over your bare heads ; 
and have prayed more cordially if you had seen 
every word you uttered, written down by the hand 
of God ? The same circumspection that keeps a 


distraction out of one sentence, might, were you 
faithful therein, keep it out of two, or ten, or 
twenty ; and he that can be temperate for a day, 
might be temperate every day, if he did his best. 

3. It is a mixture of cowardice and sloth which 
makes its impossible. It is an argument of a sloth- 
ful heart to say, " There is a lion in the way, there 
is a lion in the streets," Prov. xxvi. 13 ; yet if there 
were a lion in the way to heaven, thou must rather 
run upon him than run from God. There is a more 
powerful lion will meet you in the way to hell. No, 
no ; it is not the danger without, but the dulness 
and slothfulness within, that creates the impossi- 
bility. How many hundreds out of fearfulness and 
idleness, have restrained prayer before God ; till 
being soundly awakened they set about prayer, 
and found it both pleasing and delightful ? Reli- 
gion, in the power of it, is a work of pains. If you 
will not make an effort for heaven, you can never 
have it ; try but the next duty with your best dili- 
gence, and you shall find that possible to the power 
of grace, which appears impossible to the strength 
of nature. 




Object. 2. It is difficult : if it be not impossible, 
yet it is very hard, it is a lesson for the upper class 
in the school of Jesus Christ. We weaker scholars 
need not attempt it, because we cannot attain it ; 
as well may we sit still, as rise up and fall. This 
is too hard for us. 

Jlnsw. 1. This argues the excellency of it ; the 
more hard the more honourable, and therefore this 
should rather increase than lessen thy courage. If 
you except all hard points out of the practice of 
piety, you will leave but few to be practised ; it is 
the idle scholar who skips over the hardest words 
of his lesson, but the rod must fetch him back unto 
them : neither must you expect that God will take 
any notice of your easy duties, if you turn off the 
hard ; he could have servants enough to do his 
easy work, but religion must go all together, and 
almost Christianity will not serve any good pur- 

2. The way to heaven is hard, and this you were 


told at first: "because strait is the gate and nar- 
row is the way that leadeth unto hfe." Matt. vii. 
14. If you Hke it not, let it alone, but take care 
that you exchange for the better. To get a king- 
dom is not easy, though it is easy to lose one. Who 
gets a race without running,- or victory without 
bleeding, or heaven without striving 1 Hence Mr. 
Latimer said to one that objected against the duty 
he was pressing, which was that landlords should 
send for their tenants and end differences among 
them ; that this were a good work indeed, but mar- 
vellously hard. " 0," said he, " my friend, it is a 
hard matter to be a Christian. Heaven was never 
gotten yet without violence, and there is no new 
way found of coming there. But if Christ Jesus 
had not done harder work than this for thee, thou 
couldest never have come there." 

3. And is there no hardship in attending upon 
sin 1 Is it an easy thing to serve the devil ? Wise 
Solomon saith, " the way of transgressors is hard." 
Prov. xiii. 15. Our love to it blinds our eyes, or 
else he performs a hard service that gives atten- 
dance on any sin. The lascivious man swallows 
many difficulties, perhaps weeks and months 
together, to continue the pleasure of an hour. 


How many dark nights doth the drunkard walk, 
and hard words endure, and hard sacrifices make, 
to feed that senseless lust ? Who would digest the 
life of a covetous worldling ? Hard fare, hard work, 
hard journeys, for what may be consumed in two 
hours ; to say nothing of the life of the envious, 
the ambitious, the malicious men, whose daily 
bread is mingled not only with sweet, but gall and 
bitterness ; and yet who hears them complain of 
difficulty, or throw off their designs for hardness 1 
And is it not far better to conquer difficulties for 
heaven than hell, and venture upon hardship for 
Christ and thine own soul, than for Satan and thy 
damnation ? especially when love to the service of 
God would make this yoke as easy, as the labour 
of transgressors is to them. 

4. Though it be hard to keep off these distrac- 
tions, yet it is necessary, and it must be done. 
Good Mary would not by any business be dis- 
tracted in her attendance on Christ, and resolves 
therein, that she did the " one needful thing." 
Luke X. 42. Poor men find it hard to work six 
days together, but there being a necessity for it, 
there is no excuse ; they could find twenty put 
ofTs, but it must be done, work or starve. We 


have the same dilemma:, pray or perish ; and that 
is not half a prayer that is filled with distractions. 

5. Though it be hard, yet it is sweet ; " her 
ways are ways of pleasantness," Pro v. iii. 17, and 
this is one of them. You may ever observe the 
more wandering the heart, the more wearisome the 
duty ; a divided heart can taste but partial com- 
fort ; and fulness of joy follows, where the full 
bent of the soul goes before. Our common ex- 
perience tells us, what peace, what joy, what 
confidence, what suavity, fills the heart, when we 
have, though with some difl5culty, approached the 
Lord, enjoyed him, and attended on him without 
distraction. What is more hard to the brain and 
the body than study ? for labour, a scholar would 
choose the plough before it ; the brain, the back, 
the heart and spirits are pained and spent ; yet no 
employment so sweet ; the mind, and brain and 
heart refreshed ; and a good scholar would hardly 
exchange employments with a prince ; so sweet, 
so ravishing is this hard employment. Even so it 
is with prayer or any holy ordinance ; the sweet- 
ness of a watchful serious frame, doth fully com- 
pensate for the difficulty thereof. 

6. Custom and practice will make it much 


easier. He that executes the law on vagrants, 
though at iirst he were pestered with them, will 
after a while with ease be delivered of them : so 
that resolved christian, who keeps up his watch 
and ward awhile, shall find it each day easier than 
the former one, to attend on God without these 
vagrant thoughts. Use and custom make the 
hardest things easy. As a wise man that converses 
in the midst of his observing enemies, by use is 
inured to all caution, and can easily avoid all dan- 
gerous words or behaviour ; though it be hard, he 
is used to it ; so practice will wonderfully facilitate 
this hard duty. You once thought it impossible 
for you to pray, but practice hath made you per- 
fect. The same spirit, by the same help, can and 
will perfect you in this. This is one of those 
infirmities which the spirit of God will help. 



Object. 3. The commonness of these distiac- 
tions ; no man but is lull of them, all seriou:: 


christians complain of them. What is so common 
cannot be very evil ; these vanities that every one 
hath, I cannot expect to be without, and therefore 
must be content. 

Answ, 1. This must be answered with grief. 
Every man is full of them, and every good man is 
sick with them. If every man's body were gone 
after his soul, this would sometimes be an empty 
congregation. Every solemn look hath not a 
serious heart, and there are but few that make 
a business of prayer ; and this is a lamentable 
thing, that we can hold discourse with man, or 
crave a kindness, or drive a bargain without a 
wandering thought ; till our face be set towards 
God, and that we begin a duty of worship, and 
then or ever we are aware, our soul is slipt off her 
chariot wheels, and our sight of God is lost. 

2. And yet some watchful christians, as we 
observed before, have got a good riddance of 
them ; to accuse others is a poor excuse to you. 
As their humility teaches them to complain of the 
worst, so your charity should cause you to think 
the best ; no doubt they that are sick of them, do 
by degrees get remedies against them, and grow 


3. By this plea all sins might be justified ; thus 
swearing might be advanced before praying, for it 
is more common than prayers ; revenge is more 
common than forgiveness, but this is no excuse for 
it. He that will do as the most do, must go whither 
the most go ; " thou shall not follow a multitude to 
do evil," Exod. xxiii. 2 ; no, nor to think evil. If 
thou wilt be Christ's disciple, thou must be serious 
and attentive, though the whole congregation trifle. 
True sanctity is not grounded on men's practice 
but on God's precept. Make no apologies but 
such as you can plead before the face of God. 
What a poor plea will it be to say, I was drunk for 
company, I wandered from God for company. 
Alas, if thou gO€st to hell for company, that will be 
no mitigation of your pain, nor an extenuation of 
your crime. If many displease the Lord, you have 
more need to please him ; if many play, you have 
more need to work ; and rather choose to be saved 
with a few, than be damned with a crowd. 

4. In such an universal loitering, thy care will 
be more acceptable ; loyalty is doubly valued and 
rewarded, where rebellion is general ; and one 
dutiful child is cherished among many disobedient. 
" To this man will I look, to him that is of a poor 


and contrite heart, and who trembleth at my 
word." Isaiah Ixvi. 2. The great Jehovah there 
overlooks heaven and earth, and the house of his 
rest, to fix his blessed eye on this man or woman, 
that when he comes to a sermon doth not, dare 
not trifle, but trembles at his word, and that feels 
every sentence at his heart. When great men 
come into the congregation, then men look; but 
when the poor trembling hearer comes in, then 
God looks. The angels gaze at such guests, 
more than vain people do at silks and fashions. 
Oh it is a rare sight to see a christian in earnest, 
to behold a humble man converse with God ; the 
hosts of heaven rise up, and are attracted by it. 
If therefore it be so common to be distracted in 
duties, do thou disdain to be in the common 
fashion, but get quickly into the mode of heaven. 


god's accepting the will for the deed. 

Object. 4. God will accept the will for the deed. 
I would be free from these temptations, but in this 


life I cannot, and therefore shall sit down content. 
God is merciful, though you are strict. And he 
hath said, " If there be first a willing mind, it is 
accepted according to that a man hath, and not 
according to that he hath not." 2 Cor. viii. 12. 

Ansiv. 1. This axiom and scripture were never 
intended as a pillow for the lazy, but as a support 
to the weary ; not to exempt us from our duty, but 
to comfort us under our weakness. What parent 
will accept this answer from a negligent child ? or 
what master will be content with this excuse from 
a slothful servant 1 Offer it now to your governor, 
and imagine not that will pass with God, which 
would be counted a mockery with men. 

2. God never accepts the will for the deed, 
when the deed may be done ; yea, and so for as 
the deed can be done, the will without it is but a 
mockery unto God. But wherein an upright 
heart hath done its utmost in the use of all means, 
and would do more, this will is accepted for the 
deed, even as if thou hadst perfectly obeyed : and 
so that scripture cited is express in the case of 
charity ; " It is accepted according to that a man 
hath." So that a man must give according to that 
he hath, or else his willing mind stands for 


nothing. Now have you done your utmost 
against distractions? can you do no more? If 
death stood at the end of the duty, you could 
double your watch ! Plead not this till you have 
done your best. 

3. It is far from the quality of grace, to sit 
down content in any defect or sin, or to vouch the 
mercy of God to secure the soul in any transgres- 
sion : who when he is dressed in his garments of 
mercy, "Yet will not by any means clear the 
guilty." Exod. xxiv. 7. No, it is the genius of 
true grace, though it fall still upon him, and cry 
out and roar under those diseases that are in- 
curable. After the Apostle had told us, " The 
good I would, I do not, but the evil that I would 
not, that I do," Rom. vii. 19, he lies not down, 
and resolves to let it run, but fights and strives, 
and cries, " wretched man that I am," verse 24. 
If thou once sit down, be content, and say, I will 
strive no more, thou givest the field, the Spirit 
withdraws with grief, and Satan approaches thee 
with triumph. 

4. The great Jehovah is so far from being 
content with such a frame, that he hath plainlv 
" cursed all such as do the work of tlie I^ord 



negligently, or deceitfully." Jer. xlviii. 10. 
Though you neglect not the work of the Lord, yet 
if you do it negligently, you are in danger of the 
curse. Every distraction is a neglect; in each 
wandering you deal deceitfully with God ; and for 
every one of these in a duty, God's law pro- 
nounceth a curse. And is the divine curse a small 
thing with you? Who could digest a hundred 
curses, though pronounced at your door by a pro- 
voked neighbour] O how much more intolerable 
is it, to be obnoxious to a hundred curses from 
heaven, justly deserved, and infallibly inflicted, if 
repentance prevent not ! It is not the work of the 
Lord will excuse you ; Nadab shall perish with 
his strange fire, as well as if he had offered nothing 
at all. Take heed of forgiving yourselves, when 
God forgives you not : a negligent duty is abom- 
ination to God. 

And thus you have the most material objections 
answered, which was the fifth point to be handled. 






We shall now proceed unto the more practical 
part of this subject, namely, to find out and sum 
up the causes of this epidemical disease, which is 
the sixth point to be discussed. 

The first cause of distraction in God's service 
is, secret atheism. There is an atheism of the 
head, an atheism of the heart, and an atheism of 
the life. In the first, " The fool hath said in his 
heart. There is no God." Psalm xiv. 1. Mark, it 
is not, he hath thought in his heart, but says it by 
rote to himself, rather as what he would have, than 


what he doth believe. And of him it is truly said, 
that the speculative atheist is the greatest monster 
in the world, except the practical. And our 
divisions in the church, by the help of our corrupt 
natures, have made proselytes of a considerable 
number to this desperate opinion : as if the dif- 
ferent opinions about the ebbing and flowing of the 
sea, should render it doubtful whether the sea did 
ebb and flow at all ; or the disputes about the 
manner of vision should call our sight itself into 
question. You would think it a vain conclusion to 
arrive at, because philosophers argue much about 
the sensitive and vegetative faculties of the soul, 
that there is no rational soul at all ; inasmuch as 
these very debates do argue a rational soul, by 
which these points are disputed. Even so it is 
notorious madness to conclude, from the variety 
and diversity of opinions about religion and go- 
vernment, that there is no God ; seeing you are 
supported by him, while you dispute and argue 
about him. 

Atheism of the heart is that whereby the fool 
saith " also in his heart. There is no God ;" that 
is, either secretly questions, or but coldly assents 
to the existence of God, or heartily wishes there 



were none at all. And it is worth observation of 
both these, that they are such as are obnoxious to 
the divine majesty by some misdemeanour. The 
felon wishes there were no judge at all ; yet even 
these are forced in some pangs to acknowledge 
him ; at some fright by thunder^ under some horror 
of conscience, or at the point of death, they are 
compelled to give Jehovah his due. And they 
also, in any sudden fright, or great extremity, 
usually cry to God as earnestly as others. 

Atheism of the life is described, — " They pro- 
fess that they know God, but in works they deny 
him." Titus i. 14. Now these latter originate 
from the first, and the last is most visible in our 
distractions : for if thou didst as verily believe God 
present in an ordinance, as he that sits next thee, 
durst thou trifle so egregiously as thou dost? The 
minister looks at you, and you dare not talk ; if 
you saw him that looks at you from heaven, you 
durst not wander : and therefore the more or less 
strong o\ir behef is of God, the more or less lively 
are we in our applications to him. Oh the patience 
of God ! that he can endure the worm to doubt of 
his existence, yea, practically to deny him, and not 
demonstrate himself by a thunderbolt! But the 


countryman's ignorance of the first moving cause 
doth not nullify it : no more doth the atheist's in- 
fidelity degrade the first mover, the Majesty of 
Heaven. " He that cometh unto God must be- 
lieve that he is." Heb. xi. 6. 

The remedy of this evil is, humbly to read the 
scripture, which is the most clear, certain, and 
convincing way to work faith herein. Prayer and 
the Bible have convinced more than any other 
arguments ; recommend me, then, to Moses, rather 
than Plato, for the demonstration of a Deity. All 
that reason can suggest, might be written by an 
infidel ; and more infidels have been convinced by 
reading and hearing the books of the christians, 
than christians settled by reading the books of 
infidels. And therefore, although holy David, 
Psalm xix. 1, appeals to the heavens, and the host 
of them, as a strong argument to declare God, and 
so it is ; for what reason but the hand of a God, 
can be rendered, that the planets being all of one 
matter, should have contrary motions, seeing things 
of the like matter have by nature like motion ? yet, 
laying that topic aside, he fixes upon the law of 
G od, verse 7, as the most perfect and sure way to 
demonstrate a Deity, and convert and make wise 


the soul. Then go to God in prayer, and beg him 
to touch thy heart, and open thine eyes, and thou 
shalt quickly see him " that is not far from every 
one of us." 



The second cause of distractions in the service 
of God is, the corruption of our nature ; that is, of 
soul and body ; so that our inward faculties do act 
on our outward senses, and they infect our inward 
faculties in this business. " Out of the heart pro- 
ceed vain and evil thoughts." Matt. xv. 19. They 
are not forced out, as sparks from a flint, but come 
out thence of themselves, as sparks out of a fur- 
nace. View the mind, and its accident is vanity ; 
and how can a vain mind be serious with God, 
without a great deal of grace 2 The heart's name 
is deceitful, and makes a trade of deceiving and 
purloining in the most solemn duties ; and when 
the ear receives the word as a lovely song, she 
runs after covetousness the while. " Now is she 


without, now in the streets, and heth in wait at 
every corner," hke the lewd woman. Prov. vii. 11. 
The eye that should be fixed on heaven, is in the 
ends of the earth, and gathering a straggling 
notion from every object. The ear, by every 
noise, calls off the soul from its great business, 
thus woefully the old man is bent against the new 
man. " The law of the members wars against 
the law of the mind, and leads us into captivity to 
the law of sin that is in the members.'' Rom. vii. 
23. When the mind itself is set in its most hearty 
purposes to wait on God, and offer him a faithful 
sacrifice, then comes in the law of the members, 
and either suggests within, or admits from without, 
some roving notions, and these lead the poor soul 
like that young man, " Forced with flatteries, like 
the ox to the slaughter, or the fool to the correc- 
tion of the stocks." Prov. vii. 21,22. And thus 
he that began in heaven, ends on earth, if not in 
hell. Thus the good he would do, he cannot 
perform. wretched man, who must lead his 
life with such a heart ! 

As if a man were tied still to shoot in a warping 
bow ; he settles himself in his right postures, aims 
directly at the white, but his warping bow still 


carries the arrow quite beside the mark, and his 
skill is rendered ineffectual. So the poor upright 
christian in a duty, orders his business and his 
heart, as well as ever he can, and aims at glorifying 
God, and getting good to his soul ; but the cor- 
ruption of liis nature diverts him from his purpose. 
This hinders the elevation of the soul, which would 
fix it in God's service, like one that hath a light 
heart, and a heavy body ; the light heart would fly, 
the heavy body clips her wings, and will hardly 
creep. Oh ! saith the soul, now will I arise, and 
soar into heaven ; I must, I will speak with my 
God : my wants are pressing, my sins increase, 
eternity approaches ; who will give me the wings 
of an eagle ? I will never live so far from God, I 
will hasten away. Thus this bird of paradise takes 
wing, when behold the stone of her corrupt nature 
hangs at her leg, and weighs her down : she flut- 
ters a little, but cannot fly, because of the heart 
she cannot fly. 

And not only dulness, but the deceitfulness cf 
our corrupt nature furthers our distractions. For 
though the heart be deceitful from the beginning 
to the end of the year, yet her prime and most 
subtle sleights are showed in tire service of God ; 


where she is put hard to it to manage for herself, 
and therefore useth her finest notions and excuses 
to evade the presence of God^ and the powerful 
influences of the Holy Ghost. Like some cunning 
thief, that joins hims-elf to the unwary traveller, 
and gives him pleasant company awhile, till at 
length he draws him out of the way, and takes his 
purse, before he is aware he is in a wood, and his 
money is gone. Even so the heart of man pro- 
fesses to be very willing to pray, or perform other 
duties, and goes with us awhile, but before we 
have proceeded twenty sentences in our work, this 
** deceitful heart turns us aside, brings us to feed 
upon ashes," and binds up the faculties, that we 
" cannot deliver our souls, nor say. Is there not a 
lie in my right hand?" Isaiah xliv. 20. Now is it 
not a hell upon earth to live with such a heart, to 
cross a man in the midst of his greatest business, 
disappoint him in his highest expectations, and 
make him lose his labour, if not his soul ? 

The remedy against this corruption of our na- 
ture is hard. To divert a stream is easy, but to 
dry up a spring is difficult ; stop it here, and it 
breaks out there. So to divert and discharge a 
wandering thought is easy in comparison, but kill 


one viper, and there is a hundred more ready for 
the birth.* We think sometimes our worldly 
business is the only cause of them ; but the most 
retired hermits prove to us that an unsanctified or 
half-sanctified heart can find matter enough of 
diversion in a naked cell. And that the corruption 
of the subject, as well as the bewitching nature of 
the object, makes us trifle in God's worship. As 
Jerome tells of Hilarion, whose heart roving from 
God, was soundly scourged for his labour by an 
angel. And therefore the only cure of this is to 
get a "true and greater degree of sanctifying 

You that have no grace, can never pray well, 
till your hearts be changed ; a new heart can only 
sing this new song well.| You complain that you 
want expressions ; ah ! it is impressions you want, 
and nothing else ; if you had that sense of sin, 
which makes the soul ache and mourn, you would 
find words sufficient to -express it, when you are in 

* As the ivy, though stump, body, and branches be cut 
oft^ yet some sprigs will sprout, till the wall be pulled down. 
So it is with us. 

t I never knew a beggar that wanted words to express 
his wants. Bishop Hall. 


danger of falling into hell-fire ; nor smiling at one 
another, when God is frowning, and thundering 
against you. He that feels the stone torment, 
hath few wandering thoughts, while he is telling 
his grief, and seeking help. The condemned 
prisoner is not sleeping or trifling at the bar. 
Dionysius' flatterer had little regard for his music, 
when the naked sword hung by a hair over his 
bare head ; neither would a poor sinner, if he were 
enlightened to see his guilt and danger, so com- 
monly and senselessly trifle before God, when his 
matter is debating, and terms of life or death being 
proposed. Alas ! there is no hope of your cure in 
this, till your fundamental disease be healed ; your 
whole life is a long distraction from the true end 
and main business of life ; and therefore it is im- 
portant if ever you would perform a pleasing duty 
unto God, to get " grace whereby you may serve 
God acceptably ;" "* for without that you cannot 
do it. 

And to counterbalance that corruption of nature 
in you, you that have some sanctification must get 

* Lydia did then attend unto the things spoken by the 
Lord, but it was when he had opened her heart. Acts xvi. 
14, 15. 


more. This sweet wood cast into that bitter 
water, will by degrees render it more wholesome. 
The more sanctilication, the more yon will be 
mortified to the world, and all the vanity and 
business thereof; and then its thoughts and cares 
will not rush in with that violence upon you, but 
stay to speak with you at your better leisure ; or if 
they be invading the heart, you will have more 
vigour of grace to expel them, and more repentance 
for them ; you will be more lively and spiritual, 
and fervent in religious duties, and so have less 
room for these wanderings ; for he that is fully 
engaged in his business, prevents the assault of 
the most importunate diversions ; and a lively 
serious christian runs on his errand like Elisha's 
servant, " If thou- meet any man, salute him not ; 
and if any salute thee, answer him not again ;'^ 2 
Kings iv. 29 ; and Satan cannot fasten discourse 
on such a man ; yea, and generally, the more holy 
the heart is, the fewer of these wandering thoughts ; 
forasmuch as sanctity being his frame and element, 
heterogeneous bye-thoughts do put him out of his 
temper and so displease him, and cause some 
smart to the soul ; and the sin that really molests 
a man, will hardly ever prevail over him ; and 


finally, the more holiness you attain, the more 
afraid will you be to displease God. For to be 
amended with a little cross, to be affected with a 
little mercy, and to be afraid of a little sin, are 
certain arguments of a great deal of grace. And 
therefore a holy christian is more troubled at a 
vain thought in a duty, than a slight christian is at 
the total neglect of a duty. 

It follows, therefore, that all means be used and 
improved to the utmost, for the increasing of the 
grace of God in your hearts, there being as much 
duty to grow in grace as to get it ; and no greater 
argument of sincerity, than endeavours to grow 
better. Turn therefore those many thoughts you 
spend about the truth of your grace, into all pos- 
sible care to advance and increase it, so will you 
best clear your doubts, and in particular cure your 




The third cause of distractions in the service of 
God, is, unpreparedness unto it. " If thou prepare 
thine heart, and stretch out thine hands to him ; 
if iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away; then 
shalt thou be steadfast." Job xi. 13. First, prepare 
the heart, then stretch out the hands. lie that 
keeps not his foot, when he goes into the house or 
service of God, is very hkely to stumble, and to 
offer but the sacrifice of fools. He that is unfitted 
for any work, must needs be unfixed in it.* As 
holy Mr. Dodd used to say of afflictions, when Me 
are prepared for them, they are like a sword tliat 
only strikes upon our armour ; but when we are 
unprepared, they are like a sword striking on our 
bare skin. Even so, when the heart is well fixed 
and prepared for the Lord's service, an impertinent 

* Hence David ; Psalm Ivii. 7, 8 ; so Deborah, Judges 
V. 12. 


thought or suggestion falls on our armour, but 
when we come unprepared, it meets with our very 
hearts, and runs away with them. If a man come 
into a prince's presence undressed, unbrushed, or 
without his band, you may easily imagine how, 
when he is aware of the feathers or dirt that is 
about him, he is distracted ; so is the soul wofully 
carried off, when approaching to God ; the follies 
of sin and vanities of the world disfigure and divert 
it from a close converse with Him ; and therefore 
a serious christian doth not only pray, and watch 
in prayer, but watcheth unto prayer. We so eat 
our meat, says Tertullian of the primitive chiis- 
tians, as remembering we must pray before we go 
to bed. And here I shall answer a necessary 
<]uestion, viz. 

Q. What kind of preparation is necessary be- 
fore our ordinary duties of worship ? 

Jlnsw. 1. The light of nature teacheth us to 
prepare for every weighty action. Approaching to 
the Lord of heaven and earth is such. Who 
teaches the client to consider his case, when he 
comes to state it to his advocate 1 or the husband- 
man to prepare himself for his tillage, or the poor 
suitor to weigh his request that he makes to a 


prince 1 Why, the light of nature teacheth this ; 
and the light of scripture distinguished an upright 
man from a hypocrite hereby. " There are good 

things in thee in that thou hast prepared 

thine heart to seek God :" 2 Chron. xix. 3, there 
was Jehoshaphat. Again, " Rehoboam did evil, 
because he prepared not his heart to seek the 
Lord." 2 Chron. xii. 14. He sought God, it is 
likely, as many will do, but he cared not how he 
did it ; and so though he did a good thing, yet, 
saith the scripture, " he did evil." 

Ansxv. 2. Most certainly the Lord is a great 
God, who can raise or ruin thee in a moment, and 
whom the angels approach not without a profound 
respect; and so likewise duties of worship are 
great and weighty duties, wherein you transact for 
a kingdom, and plead or hear the cause that is for 
Hfe or death. You drink a cup that will either 
mend or destroy you, and who is sufficient for 
these things ? And it is manifest, that we are 
naturally unprepared, and to every good work 
reprobate. The posture of our hearts is inverted, 
and now they are open downwards, and shut to- 
wards heaven ; all which if you place together, it 
must needs follow, that some preparation is neces- 


sary, even for the ordinary duties of God's wor- 

Ansio. 3. The hearts of men are of a different 
temper, and so are their occasion ; the hearts of 
some are always in heaven, or else within a call ; 
they are, as the apostle speaks, " Ready to every 
good work." Titus iii. 1. When a duty of piety 
is offered they are ready to engage in it ; when an 
object of charity is proposed, they are ready to 
<listribute. And this present spirit is a great bless- 
ing, when holiness is so rooted and framed upon 
the heart, that God's worship is their element ; the 
hearts of others, through custom, and supine 
negligence, abide at a great distance from God ; 
no little effort will raise them, nor will they be 
brought in with many calls ; like a great bell, they 
are hard to be raised ; and as these have a greater 
unhappiness, so they have need of more pains to 
lit them for God's service.* 

The occasions of some men will give them time 
enough to set their hearts in order, to state their 

* In such case meditation, like a dish of water, may set 
the pump a going j yea, foul water may bring up fair water. 
— Bishop Hall. 



souPs condition, and get themselves into a holy 
heat ; and for them to come with cold and dead 
hearts into rehgious duties cannot be permitted. 
The occasions of others are so urgent and con- 
tinual, that they have much difficulty to redeem 
time for prayer, and can hardly obtain a period of 
preparation, especially when a man is surprised 
with a holy duty, or in prayer at meals, or the like; 
and therefore one last may as soon fit all feet, as 
one particular rule suit with every christian. 

Answ. 4. The least measure of preparation 
that is necessary for the ordinary worship of God, 
is that the heart be called out of the world,* and 
made apprehensive or sensible of the nature of 
that God, and weight of that work that you are 
about ; which if you can attain in a minute, or are 
of necessity straightened or surprised, you will be 
welcome to heaven ; but if you can easily order 
your time, or not easily order your hearts, and re- 
mand your thoughts, you venture on your peril ; 
and if God be not merciful, and you penitent, will 

♦ Prov. xviii. 1. If thou canst not always have separating 
time betwixt other occasions and God's worship, yet have 
some separating thoughts ere thou enter upon the duty. — 


cany away a curse instead you of a blessing. And 
so I conclude this answer with "let us have 
grace," not only a gracious habit but a gracious 
frame, " whereby we may serve God acceptably 
with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a 
consuming fire." Heb. xii. 28, 29. 

Think it not much, therefore, to keep or get a 
heart prepared for the worship of God. When 
ringers set not in together, there is little but 
discord in that peal, but when they commence 
together, there is sweet music ; and so it is when 
all the congregation set out, and take wing at 
once, it is music for heaven ; whereas the heart 
that is not ready for the duty mostly produces dis- 
cord and spoils the harmony.* And indeed this 
unpreparedness of the soul doth make the duty 
ungrateful to the worshipper. When a friend 
comes upon you, and you are not prepared, no 
provision or rooms in readiness, how comparatively 
unpleasing is his visit, and distracted his entertain- 

* When you have prepared your hearts, God will pass 
by great imperfections, 2 Chron. xxx. 18, 19, and you may 
then do much in a little time. Psalm x. 17. Thou hast 
prepared their hearts, then M'ilt thou cause thine ears to 
hear. — Burrottghs. 


ment] when to him that keeps a constant table, 
or hath made set preparation, the sight and con- 
versation of his friend is very sweet ; so it is be- 
tween our God and us ; when the rooms of the 
soul are prepared, and at our gates are all manner 
of pleasant fruits, new and old, laid up for our 
beloved, how can we welcome our Maker on his 
own cost into our souls'? whereas Christ himself 
hath but cold welcome, and distracted entertain- 
ment in an unprepared soul. Lift up therefore 
thy heart in the porch of a duty, with " turn away 
mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken me 
in thy way." Psalm cxix. 37. 



The fourth cause of distractions in God's wor- 
ship is lukewarmness.* He that is intense in 

* This night past, as I was awakened out of my sleep, the 
devil came and intimated, that God was far from me, and 
heard not my dull prayers ; so I said. Well then, so will I 
cry the louder. — Luther. And when he found his spirit 
out of frame, he would never give over praying, till he had 
prayed his heart into that frame he entreated for. 


any thing hath few thoughts to spare. Distractions 
are but the idlings of the heart, he that runs, looks 
at nothing but the goal ; though he meet passen- 
gers, or pass by palaces, he is in earnest and stops 
for nothing ; it is he that walks at leisure who turns 
his eye to every trifle, and descants on every 
object, because he is not in haste. Even so the 
zealous soul, though he forgets not those things 
which are behind, yet reaching forth to the things 
that are before, presseth towards the mark ; he 
hath business in hand which concerns eternity, 
and he cannot stand to whispper with every passen- 
ger, nor trifle with every object. It is the luke- 
warm heart that is prone to that ; he can pray to 
God, and dress himself at once, he can hear God 
and talk with men, speak about heaven, and con- 
trive about the earth ; and in a word, serve God 
and mammon at the same time. Good Jacob was 
little troubled with wandering thoughts, when he 
had " by his strength power with God, yea, he had 
power over the angel and prevailed, for he wept 
and made supplication." Hos. xii. 3, 4. Tears 
are the best charms to chase away distractions. 



VV^hile you labour and weep, and pray, wandering 
thoughts will flee away.* 

As there can be no reason given for any sin, 
called therefore folly, so for this in special ; for if the 
holy work you are about be worth the consuming 
of your time, which passeth in every duty, and is 
most precious, surely it is worth all your pains and 
diligence. He that loseth his time in the duty, 
and loseth his soul by his lukewarmness in the 
duty, makes a madman's choice. For if the 
sermon, prayer, and chapter, be not worth thy 
labour, never attempCit ; and if it be, never shrink, 
nor be indifferent about it. When you see a man 
freezing at his work it invites a passenger to en- 
tertain him with talk. And a frigid attendant upon 
God tempts the devil himself to tempt him. 
Wherefore the apostle, Rom. xii. 11, directs us to 
be fervent in spirit while we are serving the Lord ; 
not drowsy, but fervent in spirit, or boihng hot, as 
the word signifies. | The busiest flies will not 
meddle with the scalding honey ; though the sweet- 

+ Birds Avill not light nor stay on flaming sacrifices. — 

t Where could a wandering thought get into that most 
zealous prayer ? Dan. ix. 


ness entice them, yet the heat lenifies them. 
The base flies of thy distractions will not molest 
thy heart, if it keep boiling hot in the service of 
God. A warm and weeping prayer is the true 
holy water, which scares away the devil. 

Now the best remedy against this lukewarm- 
ness is, 1. Consideration, and 2. Practice. 

1. Consideration of the inefficiency of a frozen 
duty, which seldom reacheth the heart of God, 
when it reacheth not our own. That the king- 
dom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent 
only take it by force. That such duties neither 
please God, nor ourselves; they mock God, and 
rather deceive than delight us. That some 
prayer or sermon must be thy last, and perhaps 
this present may be it. That it is an irrational 
thing to bring; a dead sacrifice to a livino; God. 
That one serious and lively duty does you more 
good, and leaves a more sweet, blessed and active 
frame upon the soul, than a hundred heartless 
services ; and in short that the Majesty whom you 
serve loves adverbs, and narrowly observes the 
hows and whys of sacred worship ; " that it is not 
a vain thing that you are about, for it is your life." 
Deut. xxxii. 47. 


2. Practice is the other remedy. To cure 
this lukewarmness in God's service, frequent 
those hghts that are burning as well as shining. 
Let us go to Dedham, said the godly in that time, 
to fetch fire, when the famous Mr. Rogers was 
there. If you cannot hear a warning divine, then 
read such, and be sure to have some books for the 
rousing and heating of your heart, as others for 
clearing and instructing your judgement, unless the 
work of sanctification be perfect already in your 
heart and affections, while it remains imperfect in 
your mind and judgement. Associate also with 
zealous christians, borrow some of their heat and 
lend them some of your light ; and be not ashamed 
to talk of God, heaven, and the soul, when you are 
together; you lose the benefit of men's graces, 
for want of broaching those blessed vessels of 
grace you converse with. Especially read the 
scripture, which will inflame thee, and mould 
thee, being rightly used, unto its blessed nature. 
I have known some, who before their private 
duties would meditate on a verse in the Psalms, 
Canticles, or the like, and then hasten warm and 
lively into the presence of God. And choose 
rather to be frequent and fervent than long and 


roving in a duty. Shorter prayers may sometinnes 
inflame, when long ones tire the spirits ; and that 
way the ancient saints in Egypt used to take. 
And lastly, do as holy David did, who carried such 
a nature as thou dost, be ever calling to God, as 
he who is at it eight or nine times in Psalm cxix. 
" Quicken me in thy way, quicken me, and I will 
call upon thy name :" and if he had need thus to 
fetch fire from heaven, how much more have -we ? 

Q. Were it not better to omit the duty, than 
attempt it with such a dull heartless frame as this ? 

Jl. 1. Omission of a duty will never fit us for 
the better performance of it. Luther used to say, 
The oftener I neglect, the more unfit I am ; this is 
nothing but a device of the Devil. 

2. If thou endeavourest with thy utmost strength 
and sincerity, though thou be dull, it is better than 
to leave it undone ; for as one sin prepares for 
another, so one duty prepares for another. Fall 
therefore to work, and when God has engaged to 
help thee : never think neglect will mend it ; one 
sin never cures another. 

By the upright use of these means, you will find 
the Holy Ghost, as it were, stretch himself on your 
cold hearts, and infuse life and heat into you. 


And when you are soaring aloft in the spirit, that 
cunning marksman cannot shoot, and fetch you 
down by his distracting arrows. 



The fifth cause of distractions in God's wor- 
ship, is worldly-mindedness. A heart in earth 
and a heart in heaven are far asunder. As long 
as the lark soareth upward, she sings without dan- 
ger of the net ; but stooping to gaze on the fowler's 
deceitful glass, she is quickly ensnared. So is it 
with us, while we live aloft, we are safe ; but when 
the heart stoops down, and grows worldly through 
the false glass Satan puts upon it, then are we 
taken in these snares. " With their mouths they 
show much love, but their heart goeth after their 
covetousness." Ezek. xxxiii. 31. Their faces 
look one way, but they row another; their eyes are 
up towards heaven, their hearts set on the earth ; 
and grasping two affairs they prosper in neither. 
How should he set his affections on the things 


above, that hath set them chiefly on things below, 
when as these two are directly opposed? Col. iii. 
2. How should the soul, that bird of paradise, fly 
up to heaven in a duty, when it is not only weighed 
down with the lead of natural corruption, but en- 
tangled in the lime-twigs of earthly-mindedness? 
They can never write on their duties. Holiness to 
the Lord, that stamp upon their coin, God with us. 
Hence it comes to pass, that the heart is loth to 
come to an ordinance, and then longs to go out 
again; how heavily do they go to church, how 
lightly to the market ? for here the heart goes with 
them, and there it is left behind ; and being forced 
into a duty, because its treasure is in the world, 
the heart hastens to be there again, and is out of 
its element when in an ordinance.* 

We read of the " world set in a man's heart," 
Eccles. iii. 11, and of " a heart set on the world." 
Psalm Ixii. 10. Now how should God have any 
part of such a heart 1 No, no ; he that is of the 
earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth ; there 
he can rest without weariness ; of that he can dis- 

* See a plain instance hereof in that hearer. Luke viii. 
13, 14. 


course without distractions ; but when he should 
turn to God, and flee to heaven, this care knocks 
at the door, and that business whispers him in the 
ear, and there the carcass is left, but the heart is 
gone. The prophet tells us, that " whoredom, and 
wine, and new wine, take away the heart." Hosea 
iv. 11. It were very unlikely that any man in the 
heat of those sins should pray, or hear, or meditate 
aright ; and it is no more likely for a heart that is 
taken away with the cares of this world, and 
drowned therein, to converse with God without 
innumerable wanderings. 

Mistake not: it is not the world, but worldly- 
mindedness that is taxed ; not the increase of 
riches, but the heart set upon them.* And so, no 
doubt, a poor man may have his part of distractions, 
through his want of worldly things, as well as the 
rich through his abundance. He may have many 
a distracting thought what to do for the world, as 
the rich man hath what to do with the world. 
And thus we see those things which were given for 
our welfare, prove our snare; and what should 

♦ Water under a ship helps it, but water in a ship drowns 


hire us to serve God, keeps us from him. VVliich 
shows what reason the wise man had to crave 
neither riches nor poverty, but convenient com- 
forts, seeing the weight of the world distracts one 
sort, and the want of the world another sort, in 
the very immediate service of God. Howbeit, for 
the most part, the heart that is fullest of the world 
is emptiest of God. 

Now the best remedy against worldly-minded- 
ness is mortification. O get a view of Christ's 
cross, whereby the " world will be crucified to you, 
and you to the world." Gal. vi. 14. So was Paul. 
As saith Chrysostom, Paul and the world were like 
two dead bodies, that neither embrace with de- 
light nor part with grief from each other. You 
must be dead, I say dead to the world, if you 
mean to live to God, or live with him. A drunken 
prayer, and a worldly prayer, are alike devout. 
Therefore,* " Love not the world, nor the things 
of the world," for so long the love of the Father is 
not in you ; and if you love him not, how should 
you pray to him? It would be an ill-favoured 

* Let not the world be your familiar friend: familiar 
friends will come in without knocking. — White. 


sight, to behold all this congregation in their work- 
day clothes here ; how unpleasing a sight to G od 
is it, to see us all with our work-day hearts ! Now 
that you may be rid of an earthly heart, faithfully 
make use of these directions. 

1. Get faith to beheve the report God hath 
given of the world, that all that is in it is but the 
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride 
of life ; a poor vain thing, not able to give the soul 
a breakfast;* This all that have tasted it, and 
Christ also, do aver ; and canst thou find that in it, 
which none ever yet found? will it do more for 
thee, than ever it did for any one else? Believe 
its vanity upon God's word, ere thou prove it by thy 
sad experience. 

Get faith to derive the virtue out of Christ's 
death to vanquish it. " For this is the victory that 
overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John v. 
4. Lay thee down with Christ in the grave by 
faith, and say then. What is the world ? Get faith 
to believe that eternal happiness, which being once 

+ When we shall have reigned hereafter many millions of 
years in heaven, what thoughts will remain of this little 
inch of time upon earth ? — Bolton. 


seen by that piercing eye, would so disgrace the 
world, that all the comforts of it wotild not weigh a 
straw in comparison of it.* If a man lived in the 
sun, what a trifling object would the whole earth 
look ! He that lives in Christ in heaven, by faith, 
sees all the glories of the earth with a disdainful 
eye, and cries, " Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." 

2. You may be helped against this disease, by 
deep consideration of the folly and misery of such 
a frame of heart. It is folly, for all that is gotten 
of the world, with the neglect of the soul, invasion 
of holy duties, or by a carking worldly heart, 
comes to thee in vvrath, and will sink thee deeper 
in hell ; or if thou repent, is, most commonly, some 
way consumed. If we could penetrate the method 
of God's providence, usually those losses you have 
in this beast, or the other house, or the like, are 
the just value of what you have gotten by immode- 
rate care, hard dealing vv^ith others, or unseasonable 
contrivance, when your heart should have been 
better employed. And then the misery of worldly- 

* Let their money perish with them that esteem all the 
gold in the world worth one clay's society with Jesus Christ, 
said Galeacius to a nobleman, Mho tempted him to aposta- 
tize with a great sum of monev. 


mindedness, that it "pierceth the heart through 
with many sorrows." Sorrow and pain in getting, 
sorrow and care in keeping, sorrow and grief in 
losing. The heart is never at perfect rest. A 
man would not use his horse, as a worldling doth 
his heart, who gives it no quiet or ease, and all this 
to no purpose at all. " The people labour in the 
very fire, and weary themselves for very vanity." 
Hab. ii. 23. And may not the consideration hereof 
be an effectual means to promote hatred to this 
humour 1 and when it is once hated, it is more than 
half discharged. 

3. Have recourse to God by prayer, and therein 
see and bewail thy former madness ; solemnly vow 
to restore their right to every man thou hast 
wronged ; rather part, like Zaccheus, with half 
thine estate, than with thy whole soul and' body ; 
and earnestly cry unto the Lord, " to incline thine 
heart to his testimonies, and not unto covetous- 
ness." Psalm cxix. 36. Entreat your heavenly 
Father to give you a heavenly heart, and if it come 
not at first asking, it is a gift worth going for again ; 
humbly tell him, by virtue of that covenant wherein 
you promised to forsake the world, which you are 
now resolved to adhere to, his Majesty is bound to 


give you a mortified and heavenly heart, and you 
will never leave him, till you have obtained it. 

4. Draw your hearts from worldly thoughts 
when you go to the worship of God. " The pre- 
paration of the heart is from the Lord : commit 
thy ways to him, and thy thoughts shall be estab- 
lished." Prov. xvi. 1, 3. The heathen left their 
shoes at the temple doors, to intimate that all 
earthly affections must be left behind, when -men 
go to speak with God. Do as that great states- 
man used, who would lay off his gown, wherein he 
administered his office, when he went to worship 
God, and say, " Lie there. Lord Cecil ;" implying, 
he would take none of the cares of his office into 
the presence of God. So when you go to prayer, 
reading, or hearing, lay aside the world, and say. 
Lie there house ; ye fields lie there ; lie there my 
cares, till I have done with God. So " Abraham 
left his servants and asses below the hill," Gen. 
xxii. 6, and took up nothing but a holy heart, and 
the materials of his sacrifice, with him thither. 
Keep still an eye upon your hearts, and both 
" watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." 




The sixth cause of distractions in the worship of 
God is, weakness of love to Jesus Christ, and con- 
sequently to his ordinances. Love unites the soul 
to its object : as faith is the bond of our mystical, 
so love is the bond of our moral union with Christ. 
The more love to Christ, the more life in his ser- 
vice. " Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal 
upon thy arm : for love is strong as death." Cant, 
viii. 6. Were your love more strong, it would seal 
up both soul and body, and unite them firmly unto 
Jesus Christ. Love marries the heart and eye to 
the object; hence it is there is not a distracting 
thought in heaven, for there love is perfect : they 
see, and love, and sing ; and praise, and see, enjoy, 
and love, for ever and ever. The three disciples. 
Matt. xvii. 4. had but a half-quarter glimpse of 
that state, but their love to their dearest Lord and 
his presence was so heightened, that the world was 
forgotten, Jerusalem below, and all their friends 


and fellow-disciples forgotten, and they anxious to 
abide there. And if we could by the eye of faith 
sec him that is invisible, and perfectly love him, O 
how hardly could we spare an absent thought in 
his presence and service ! no, all the world would 
be forgotten, comforts and crosses should all sleep 
together, while God and our souls were conversing 
in an ordinance. 

Whence is it that most men can work and care 
perpetually, and no distractions divert them? dis- 
course on their business in a most orderly manner, 
without one ahen thought? drive on a bargain an 
hour together, and think on nothing but what is per- 
tinent to their present business ? Why, they love 
what they are about; they like it well, and so tongue 
and heart go together, and are wholly taken up 
therewith. The jovial band like their company, 
and nothing is permitted to distract them ; the ser- 
vant comes about necessary business ; the master 
fumes that they will not let him alone ; the child 
comes, and then the wife, but he frets, and is an- 
gry. And why all this 1 because he loves his com- 
pany, it is his delight, his heaven: even so, the 
soul that hath a strong love to a precious Christ, 
and his presence, doth most heavily bear a distract- 


ing thought. The devil cannot pluck him from 
Christ, but the soul smarts ; and when there is this 
smart at parting, that soul will part but seldom. 
You have sometimes seen a sucking child, that 
loves the mother and the breast most dearly ! how 
loth is it to leave it, while it is hungry ; how 
eagerly and angrily it seeks, and cries, and catches 
hold again! Here is love. Christ Jesus is the 
spring of all happiness, and his ordinances are his 
breasts, and he that loves the Lord Jesus with all 
his soul, and all his strength, draws the breasts of 
consolation. This business knocks at the door, 
that trifle tempts him ; yet there he holds and 
frowns away all his temptations. His love is ardent. 
" His delight is in the law of the Lord ; and in that 
law doth he meditate day and night." Psalm i. 2. 
When prayer is your delight and not your task, then 
you will dwell therein with complacence. " Then 
will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceed- 
ing joy." Psalm xlii. 4. Children are subject to look 
off their books, because they delight not in them ; 
but when they are playing, they do it heartily. But 
now when thy love is cool, and weak, thou lovest 
Christ, and that is all ; alas ! there is little heart to 
him, the soul comes heavily to him, and having 


little delight, and heavenly complacence in him, is 
most easily drawn off with any distraction ; for 
where the treasure is, there will the heart be also ; 
where God and Christ are a man's treasure, his 
heart is with them. He wakes, and travels, and 
cares, but his heart is with them ; he runs through 
his business with all the haste that may stand with 
good speed, that he may retreat to his heart, which 
he left with God, and then holy duties are the rest 
of his soul. And where the world, or sin, are a 
man's treasure, his heart is with them also ; he 
reads, and hears, and prays, but his heart is away ; 
the least noise, business, or whisper, can fetch him 
away ; alas ! his love is cool, and a drop of water 
will quench a spark of fire. 

The remedies of this weakness of the love to 
Christ and his ordinances are, 

1. Know him better ; and meditate more on his 
real excellencies. "What is thy beloved more 
than another beloved 1" Cant. v. 9. Why, v. 16. 
" His mouth is most sweet, yea, he is altogether 
lovely ;" or, as the Hebrew, " all of him is de- 
lights." And then mark the reply, chap. vi. 1, 
"We will seek him with thee." The pure and 
orient sun is no more than a glow-worm to the 


blind, nor the fairest face than a skeleton. It is the 
eye that must affect the heart. Come, then, open 
the eye of faith, and gaze on this heavenly object ; 
sit down, and meditate who, and what he is ; open 
but the sacred cabinent of his attributes, every box 
is full of the most sweet perfumes : each of his 
offices is pregnant with true and transcendent com- 
fort. His actions, his passion, his words, his 
works, and above all, his heart, is as full of heaven 
as ever it can hold, and full for thee : the " foun- 
tain opened for thy sins and uncleanness." The 
treasures of his grace free for thy supplies, what 
heart can freeze under such discoveries? Nay, 
stay, and look at him on the cross calling thee, with 
arms stretched out to embrace thee, his heart 
opened to let thee in, and deny him thy love if thou 
canst. And if once * your hearts be inflamed with 
his love, no small affairs shall keep you from his 
presence, nor distract you in it. 

2. Get communion with Christ in his ordi- 
nances. As he said on another occasion, " If thou 
knewest the gift of God, and who it is, thou wouldst 
have asked, and he would have given thee living 

* He loves thee little, O Lord, who loves any thing with 
thee, which he loves not for thee. — Jixigustine. 


water." John iv. 10. So I say, if thou knewest 
Avhat communion is with Christ, thou would ask 
after prayer, and long for such opportunities. ^Vhy, 
what is communion with Christ? For thy spirit to 
fly up into heaven, among the celestial spirits, and 
for Christ's Spirit to descend into thy heart. And this 
makes a heaven upon earth ; it is inexperience in 
this, that makes us cool to Christ and holy duties : 
strangeness makes company burthensome. A king 
and a beggar, a scholar and a clown, cannot make 
company of one another. So when there is a dis- 
tance between God and the soul, there is little 
longing for his ordinance, nor true delight in it. 
Communion with Christ increases love, and love to 
him promotes communion. " that thou wert my 
brother," saith the spouse, " the son of my mother," 
— there is ardent love ; " when I should find thee 
without, I would kiss thee," — there is communion, 
"yet should I not be despised." Can. viii. 1. If 
you did but see his power and glory, " your soul 
would be filled as with marrow and fatness, and 
your mouth would praise him with joyful lips." 
Psalm Ixiii. 2, 5. One beam of his holiness, love, 
or mercy, would so charm your hearts, that you 
would be loth to part, and long to meet again ; for 


how can it choose but transport a finite heart, to 
see and feel the sweetest perfections of the infinite 
God displayed before and graven on it? When 
Moses was in near communion with God on the 
Mount, no thinking of meat or cares about his tents 
below, but there he is swallowed up, and is content 
to melt in that sun of light and heat, and come 
down no more; it was easy to count his distrac- 
tions in the Mount. Oh, who can see the face of 
God, and not be ravished therewith ! who can be- 
hold the beauty of the Lord, and not choose to 
dwell in his presence all the days of a man's life ? 
It is communion with Christ Jesus, that will warm 
your love to him, and when " the king brings you 
into his chambers, you will be glad and rejoice in 
him, you will remember his love more than wine." 
Cant. i. 4. 

3. Believe verily that you can be nowhere bet- 
ter, nowhere so well as in an ordinance ; this will 
content and please your minds in the Lord's service, 
when you can be nowhere better; for what company 
can be better than God's 1 The chiefest good must 
needs afford the choicest company ; who can im- 
part such rare delights and sweet content as he 
can? and where doth he communicate himself as 


ill an ordinance? Say, the world knocks at the 
door, and would have thee away ; can vanity enter- 
tain you like felicity? can the world produce higher 
pleasures than he that made it 1 Would sin come 
in and steal your hearts away? can the chiefest 
evil create thee sweeter entertainment than the 
chiefest good ? No, no, you are best where you 
are. If the world could find you such another 
Deity, somewhat might be yielded; or give- you 
security of the reality, satisfaction, and duration of 
its toys : but, alas I there is no show for this, you 
are best where you are. I am conversing with the 
Lord of heaven and earth, who can reward each 
petition with a crown. I am in the next employ- 
ment to heaven, in a corner of heaven, I cannot 
look off yonder lovely One, I will not leave, I must 
not come down. And this experience would en- 
rapture you with an ordinance, and deliver you 
from diversions in it ; " you will sit down under his 
shadow with great delight, when his fruit is sweet 
to your taste." 





The seventh cause of wandering of the thoughts 
in the worship of God, is, want of watchfulness. 
" Watch and pray " are most necessary com- 
panions, else " shall we fall into temptation." 
Matt. xxvi. 41. In those sad times of plague, the 
faithful guard stands at the city gates, and the dan- 
gerous passenger for all his importunity is stopped 
and turned again. Why? Perhaps the plague 
comes with him, and therefore the sword is placed 
to his breast, he comes not there ; the neglect of 
this care would soon lay waste the land. So if any 
straggling thought, perhaps with the plague in it, 
shall enter at pleasure into the soul, especially 
while the Lord's service is in hand, no wonder that 
soul Ues waste ; Lord have mercy may be written 
on that door. 

1. The neglect of watchfulness before holy 
duties causes distractions ; and that is, by not 
heeding to order your affairs with discretion for 


God's service.* When you involve yourselves in 
too much business, too much for your head, too 
much for your time, or too much for your strength, 
then worldly thoughts will get place ; you cannot 
help it. Or, when men are unadvised in their busi- 
ness, in not choosing a fit time for duties, and 
thereby your business and God's, shoulder one 
another, and neither is done well. And therefore 
we are commanded " to watch unto prayer." 1 Pet. 
iv. 7. As Satan watches to cross and indispose us, 
by throwing some diverting and cooling occasions, 
so is it our wisdom to counter-watch him. En- 
deavour to time your affairs, and especially your 
duties. It is the character of a good man, that 
*' he orders his affairs with discretion," Psam cxii. 
6, and renders every thing beautiful in its time. 
For it is a true observation, that an indiscreet 
ordering of Saturday's business, hath great influ- 
ence upon the unprofitableness of the Sabbath's 

Neglect of watchfulness in holy duties. Our 
hearts, so far as unregenerate, are forced into holy 
duties, as a pressed soldier into the field: he is 

* Through desire a man having separated himself, seek- 
eihand intermeddleth with all wisdom. — Prov. xviii. 1. 


brought in against his will, and has no principle of 
courage, or love to his country : he had rather be 
digging or idling at home. Now what trust can 
you repose in such a soldier, if he be not watched ? 
he steals away, at every lane's end, and in the 
midst of the battle you shall be sure to miss him ; a 
constant eye must keep him, or you lose him. It 
is just so with our naughty hearts, if there be not a 
predominant principle of grace ; it is not choice but 
use that brings them in : they would rather be cark- 
ing or trifling about any thing than busy in prayer ; 
and therefore if you neglect to watch them at every 
turn, no sentence ends, but they will steal away. 
For prayer without watching is but a mere compli- 
ment. Where the tongue goes one way, and the 
heart another, that is a comphment ; and such is a 
watchless duty. It is said, the nightingale in her 
sweetest notes is apt to fall asleep ; to prevent 
which she settles herself on a bough, with a thorn 
at her breast, that when she begins to nod that 
sharp monitor may awake her. The holiest saint 
is apt to nod, and steal away in the midst of his 
most solemn duties, if God's spirit do not quicken 
his watch. Christ's own disciples, even just after 
a sacrament, were overtaken for want of this 


**What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" 
Matt. xxvi. 40. And if they fell asleep at 
prayer, for want of watching, how can you 
keep close to God without it, that have neither so 
good a nnonitor without, nor so good a heart 
within I 

3, Neglect of watchfulness after duties causes 
distractions in the next that follow ; people gene- 
rally let loose their hearts, when the duty ends, and 
unlace themselves for ease ; and then their thoughts 
take liberty. Our deceitful hearts foreseeing this, 
no chords will bind them to a good behaviour in the 
very duties themselves; whereas, were there a con- 
stant watch kept up after our duties were done, and 
conscieiice made of our thoughts all the day long, 
we should retain our hearts in better order, while 
G-od's worship lasts. The foresight, and espe- 
cially foretastes of liberty approaching, sets the 
»oul eager thereupon, and we cannot keep it in. 
Besides, religion is concatenated, hath a depen- 
dence one thing upon another, and it is unsufTera- 
ble to take and leave where we will. If vain 
thoughts lodge with you at other times, they will 
visit you at your business, and if they be enter- 


tained when you are disposed to entertain them, 
they will press in when you have no such mind. 

The remedy against this neglect is, to be tho- 
roughly convinced of the absolute necessity of 
constant watchfulness. " Keep thy heart with all 
diligence," Prov. iv. 23, as a castle is kept from 
scaling, a house from robbing, or a jewel from de- 
facing, so the critics ; and all these are kept con- 
stantly; one hour's negligence would hazard any 
of them.* And then, " with all diligence," or as 
the Hebrew, " with all keeping," or as some, 
" above all keeping." The eye we watch from 
harm all the day, the vitals we defend and guard 
with constant care ; we know that a touch there 
is mortal ; but above all keeping, keep the soul : 
be persuaded that watchfulness is as necessary as 
prayer ; you think, without prayer you shall go to 
hell, and I aver, that without watchfulness you can- 
not go to heaven. Man's life in this sense is a 
continued ordinance. "Wait on thy God con- 

* Lei us imagine a city not only begirt with a strait seigc of 
blood-thirsty enemies, but also within infested with lurking 
commotioners, how much would it behove that city to stand 
upon its guard. — Bolton. 


tinually ;" Hos. xii. 6 ; not only at thy prayers, but 
at thy plough. While on your knees you are wait- 
ing on God, and when you rise from your knees, 
you are going to wait on him in your calling, and 
an unbecoming thought is displeasing to him every 
where ; he is sensible of an affront in the kitchen 
as well as in the parlour, and hates vanity all the 
day long. " Be sober, and watch unto prayer." 
1 Peter iv. 7. Sober and watch; as if they that 
do not watch are mad. To watch unto prayer is a 
duty, as well as to watch in it. He that watchelh 
not to duties, doth not do his duty : a wise Chris- 
tian should have always something in store for 
God; work and look at God, eat, and drink, and 
talk, and still look at God, and at the soul.* This 
is to walk with God all the day long. As the care- 
ful bee must needs leave her hive, and fly abroad, 
but she dwells nowhere else ; she hghts on this 
flower, and then on that ; exhausts their sweetness, 
deflowers them, and gets away ; she never rests 

* You see the angels sent about God's messages to this 
earth, yet never out of their heaven, never without the vision 
of their Maker ; and so should you strive when you are up 
and down in your business, yet be within sight of God. — 
Bishop Hall. 


till she returns to her hive ; there she rests and 
enjoys herself. So a holy heart must needs out 
into the world, and business must be done^ but he 
rests at nothing till he return to the enjoyment of 
God again ; no flower gives him content, no busi- 
ness, no company, satisfies, but he retires to God, 
looks at him, and is lightened, and steps out again. 
This, sirs, this is the religion of religion. * I 
know it is hard, but it is possible ; the ice is broken 
for you, and the way is trodden. "Herein do I 
exercise myself, to have always a conscience void 
of offence." Acts xxiv. 16. It is my daily trade 
and business to keep my soul, that I neither offend 
God nor man. If you will make a trade of it, you 
may do it. God never calls for duty, but helps in 
it. " I can do all things through Christ." Phil. iv. 
13. God and his servant can do any thing. 

+ It is a thousand times easier to keep the flood-gates 
shut, than to drain the lower grounds when they are over- 
flown. — Bishop Halt 



The eighth cause of distractions in holy duties is 
* a beloved sin. When the soul hath espoused 
some bosom lust, the thoughts, be you never so 
busy, will be warping towards it, though God him- 
self look on. " O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from 
wickedness : — how long shall vain thoughts lodge 
within thee 1" Jer. iv. 14. When wickedness is in 
the heart, vain thoughts will be in thy duties ; they 
will enter, yea, they will lodge within thee. A be- 
loved sin is like a bias on the bowl, though you throw 
it out never so straight, yet the bias will draw it 
off that way„ do what you can : so is a beloved sin 
unto the soul ; aim you with utmost skill, yet there 
is a secret load-stone in it, which attracts the heart, 
and makes that prayer to end in hell, which began 

* Observe, that some make a difference between a beloved 
sin, and a reigning sin ; a beloved sin rules over our sins, 
not over our graces ; a reigning sin rules over both. 


in heaven. Either sin and you must be at a dis- 
tance, or God and you will. The soul that is in 
league with sin, dare not come to God, dare not 
look at him, dare not think on him ; and what must 
that man think of in a duty, that dare not think seri- 
ously on God ? As that penitent Father speaks in 
his confessions. An unmortified soul, like the 
husband of a scolding wife, had rather be any 
where than at home, and makes many a sad bar- 
gain abroad, because he hath no comfort at home 
with his wife ; so such a heart chooses to be 
thinking of any thing rather than God ; alas ! mat- 
ters are not straight between them ; the poison of 
sin is in him, and he embraces that abominable 
thing which God hates. The thief had rather go 
forty miles another way, than come near the judge; 
God is an offended judge to a wilful sinner, and he 
cares not ever to come near him. Hence " let us 
draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of 
faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil con- 
science." Heb. xii. 22. He that comes to God 
with a true upright honest heart, being sprinkled 
from an evil conscience, may draw near to God in 
full assurance of faith : whereas guilt clouds, clogs, 
and distracts the soul. So that you see, both the 


guilt and power of a bosom sin furnish us with too 
much cause of distractions. Sin, that would have 
all the heart ; and God, he will have all or nothing. 
It is such an offering, that is a whole burnt-offering, 
that the Lord delights in. As no subject is capable 
of two contrary qualities, in the intense degrees, 
as heat and cold may be both in the same hand, 
but not in their intense degrees, so the heart of 
man cannot entertain Christ and corruption, light 
and darkness, except the one be loved and served 
superlatively above the other. " If I regard ini- 
quity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." 
Psalm Ixvi. 18. God first stops his ear above, and 
then the sinner's mouth below, that regards iniquity, 
that likes, loves, approves, or gives it rest and quiet 
in the soul. Indeed, God neither regards him, nor 
doth such a soul regard God. He must love God 
that is lively in his service. " Will he delight him- 
self in the Almighty? will he always call upon 
God?" Job xxvii. 10. Will he always? he may 
now and then send a thought that way in his special 
need, but not always : there is difTerence between 
converse and communion. One may have con- 
verse or traffic with a stranger upon occasion, but 
communion is with a friend. A hypocrite may 


have some converse, or trading with God for neces- 
saries, but sweet communion, constant calhng on 
God, and serious duties, he can never enjoy and 
follow, that loves any sin before the chief good. 

The remedies against a beloved sin are briefly 
these two : 

1 Consideration. Sit down and think what real 
good this sin hath ever done thee. Think what 
hurt it hath done thee and others, and what fruit 
besides shame and death it brings to any. Thy 
dearest sin is but sin, which is the worst thing in 
the world, and, its masks and disguises being laid 
aside, more ugly than the devil, more horrid than 
hell itself. And think, the more thou lovest it, the 
more God hates it, and his rage and jealousy are 
increased with the increase of thy desires. Think 
how many prayers it hath lost thee, how many 
mercies it hath poisoned to thee, how many smiles 
it hath clouded, besides what unutterable suffer- 
ings it hath inflicted upon Christ, and is preparing 
for thee in hell. Consider, that thou mayest have 
as much joy, happiness, and true comfort without 
it ; and all converted sinners confess, that Jesus 
Christ hath been better to them than all their 
sins ; and if you may have as good enjoyments, 


or better, to have Christ with them, and heaven 
after them, will not make them worse. 

2. Supplication. Kneel down and pray with 
faith in the uprightness of your hearts, for strength 
from above. All the strength of heaven is en- 
gaged by prayer. He that heartily sets himself 
against his sin by prayer, cannot but dislike it; and 
when it is truly disliked, its heart is broken. 

Augustine complains, that when he, in his un- 
converted state, begged a divorce from his sin, his 
heart was afraid, lest God should hear his prayers. 
Beware lest your hearts secretly cry spare, when 
your tongues openly cry. Lord, kill and crucify my 
corruption : but do thou really pull on earth, and 
the Lord will pull from heaven, and rend thy sin 
and soul asunder. Otherwise, as the poets tell us 
of Hippomanes, that running with Atalanta for vic- 
tory, he conquered by throwing golden apples 
down ; which Atalanta stooping to take up, lost the 
prize ; so Satan seeing the soul running heaven- 
ward in God's service, will throw down the gilded 
temptations of a beloved sin, stop in its career, 
and hazard the prize of eternal glory. 





A NINTH cause of distractions in the worship of 
God, is Satan. And this he doth sometimes more 
remotely, by throwing in some cross business 
before duties, whereby the soul is unhinged : some 
person or letter with business, just before prayer; 
or some passionate circumstances in the family, 
whereby to lay matter to excite our discomposure 
and wanderings in the following duties. Some- 
times he approaches nearer, and by presenting 
objects to our senses in God's worship, draws off 
the heart : he can stay one long from the congre- 
gation, that another may be distracted in observing 
him coming in, and so wounds two, and sometimes 
twenty at a blow. Satan is not idle, when this and 
that child are restless, and unquiet in the family ; 
whereby perhaps all in the family lose the thought 
which would most profit them. He can create and 
promote distraction by every pillar and part of the 
structure, and every person in the congregation ; 


<and can be content that you should read sentences 
on the walls to hinder and divert your souls from 
the sentences that drop from the pulpit. Yea, 
he often approaches nearer, and works imme- 
diately upon the fancy, upon which he can imprint 
a thousand notions, most strange and incoherent, 
to steal the heart from God ; for we are not igno- 
rant, the more is our sorrow, of his devices. 
Hence we see him, " When the sons of God come 
to present themselves before the Lord, coming 
also among them." Job i. 6. And being ques- 
tioned, says, that his business is to " go to and fro 
in the earth," and " to walk up and down in it ;" as 
if he walked only out of curiosity, or for some cha- 
ritable end : but as our Lord Jesus went up and 
down doing good, this was his work from morning 
to night ; so the devil walks up and down doing 
evil. He is in every pew, at every elbow, throw- 
ing in his fire-balls, and enticing poor souls to com- 
mit folly with him ; and when God is treating with 
the soul about heaven and hell, then comes he* 
and thrusts the world between, or some vanity 

■• Satan cares not how heavenly our words be, if our 
thoughts be earthly — White. 


therein, to break the treaty, and spoil that sacred 
conference ; so that of all roads, no road is so full 
of thieves as the road to heaven. 

And thought to give the devil but his due, we 
can make shift to be bad enough in a a ordinance 
without him, yet he waits there no doubt to make 
us worse ; what else should bring thoughts then 
into our head, that have never come there for a 
month or year before? who else should suggest 
such horrid atheistical thoughts, when we are dis- 
tressed with convictions, and move us to question 
all when any thing pursues us ? " We wrestle 
against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things or 
employments." Eph. vi. 12. The devil is wick- 
edness in the abstract, when we are about hea- 
venly work. Never did the crafty cheat watch 
and spy how to defraud the innocent merchant, 
while he is receiving his cash, as Satan lies at the 
catch in the worship of God, to purloin from us the 
true treasure, that should make the soul rich. Es- 
pecially* that prayer, or chapter, or sermon, that 
should do thee most good, or most destroy his 

* The highway-ground-hearers had the word taken from 
them by the devil, that is, by such wandering thoughts as 
he immediately casts in. — Angier. 


kingdom, will he be most busy in. ^Mien the 
high-priest was interceding for the poor church, 
then Satan stood at his right hand to resist him ; 
hence our most solemn duties often have the sad- 
dest distractions, and such as have no coherence 
or reason for them ; but arrows, fiery darts, shot 
out of the devil's own quiver. What a sort of them 
have I in the very writing hereof, and what long 
parentheses between every sentence, and you per- 
haps will not want while you are reading, yea it may 
be, as the body, when the humours are stirred by 
physic is worse, so he will be busiest to divert and 
trouble your hearts, while the cure is working. But 
when your heart is prepared before, and watchful 
in your duty, though yours be the sorrow, that you 
have the womb that bare them, yet his will be the 
guilt, because he is the father that begets them. 

The remedy against Satan's distracting us in 
God's worship, is that of Christ's own prescribing, 
" Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." 
Matt. xxvi. 41. Stand upon your guard, give no 
heed to his suggestions. As you run to the water 
with the bucket, to quench a spark of fire in the 
thatch, so drop a tear of contrition upon this spark 
of temptation. Trifle not with these thoughts, but 

130 A REMEDY TOll 

dismiss them unregarded, and by some short 
ejaculation call in thy friend to countermine thine 
enemy. And still watch and pray, and pray and 
watch, and always remember that we have as 
much need of the strength of Christ for assistance, 
as the merit of Christ for acceptance in every duty. 
And be sure to cast out his injections with disdain 
and hatred. As Luther says, he is a very proud 
piece, and cannot endure contempt. The stronger is 
your resistance the longer will he stay away ; and 
the more you hate his motions, the less disposition 
will he have to offer them. The devil is like that 
Sanballat, who sent to Nehemiah, while busy in 
the work of the Lord. " And I," saith Nehemiah, 
" sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a 
great work, so that I cannot come down ; why 
should the work cease, whilst I leave it and come 
down to you?" Nehem. vi. 2, etc. "Yet they 
sent messengers unto me four times after this sort, 
and I answered them after the same manner." 
Come, says Satan, let us meet and confer ; here is 
a notion, and here is a business ; you must needs 
discuss this. Nay, say thou, I am doing a great 
work for eternity. As that celebrated painter 
Zeuxis, being demanded a reason of his exact 


curiosity in his work, answered, " I paint for eter- 
nity." So, I am doing a work for eternity, I am 
pleading the cause on which depends Hfe or death, 
so that I cannot hearken to thee. Why should my 
great work cease, while I leave it and come 
down ? Alas ! this business will go no farther than 
it is lifted at ; I am rowing up a river, if I trifle or 
nod a little, I go down again.* I have a business 
on the wheel that cannot be left a minute. If I 
look away, my iron burns, and I suffer loss. Yet 
he will send messengers over and over again, as 
Sanballat did ; but still answer them after the same 
manner. Discourage him, and break his heart 
with thine obstinate resolution ; " resist the devil, 
and he will flee from you." 



The tenth cause of distractions in our Lord's 
service, is, vain thoughts at other times. For 

* It is said, Gen. xv. 11, when the fowls did alight, Abra- 
ham drove them away ; not v.-'ih a they were sitting or feed- 
ing upon the carcases, but as soon as ever they alighted. We 
must not give place to these thoughts, no not for a moment. 
— White. 


1. These displease the Spmt of God; without 
whose help these infirmities will crowd in upon us. 
If you should lodge your noble friend, whom love 
only moves to visit you, in the same room with a 
dirty beggar, may not he take it for a plain affront, 
and refuse to come near or help you in your need ? 
Even so the Holy Ghost, your noblest friend, will 
take it ill to be placed in a room with base and 
beggarly thoughts, and may justly deny that pre- 
sence and assistance which we have need of; and 
without God's Spirit helping us, we cannot pray as 
we ought, nor keep out distractions, whatever may 
be our skill. " The Spirit helpeth our infirmities," 
Rom. viii. 26, and these wanderings are some of 
those infirmities, which the Spirit must help us 
about, yea and will, ifhe be not disobliged ; but it 
is far from likely, that we should have that sacred 
Spirit at our beck in duty, whom we have distasted 
all the day long. How justly may He say, as it 
is, Jer. xi. 15, "What hath my beloved to do in 
my house ?" or, as the margin, " What is to my be- 
loved in my house, seeing she hath wrought lewd- 
ness with many?" As if he should say, I know 
not what to do with thee in my house, or what thou 
hast to do with me, having roved so extremely with 


thy heart from me, and been lewd with many. Re- 
member it is the Holy Ghost who hates a sinful 
thought any time of the day. That man must walk 
with God in the day, that will have God draw to 
him at night. 

2. These dispose and naturalize the soul to 
roving. Habit is a second nature,* and it is almost 
as hard to wash an Ethiopian white, as to break an 
evil custom. " Can the Ethiopian change his skin, 
or the leopard his spots, then may ye also do " or 
think " good, that are accustomed to do evil." Jer. 
xiii. 23. If a man be accustomed to ill company, 
and is linked in with them, though he sometimes 
resolve better, yet when they come, away he must 
go with them against his purpose. Perhaps you have 
resolved against these vain wanderings in God's 
service, but being used to them, they call at the door 
and take you captive away against your intention. 
And therefore set up a constant watch against 
them, for religion is linked together in the power 
and practice of it. So that you must take all or 
leave all ; be a christian always and altogether, or 

* Hereby holy thoughts become tedious and painful, for 
we strive against two natures, one that sin hath brought, 
and another tliat custom hath wrought. — Angler. 


not at all. It is said of the accursed Mahomet, 
that he had used a dove to come to his ear, and 
thence to eat her commons, and so when the falling 
sickness surprised him, his pigeon presently came 
to her repast, which he feigned to be the Holy 
Ghost or an angel, that told him the mysteries of 
his religion. My beloved, if these fowls, these 
evil angels, be used to your ear or heart, they will 
come even in your most celestial employments, 
and divert and distract you ; and hereby they be- 
come less strange, and things that are famihar to 
us, though ugly, are not started at; nay treble 
diligence will not dispel them, if you give them 
ordinary entertainment. If a way be made over 
your corn or ground, and people are to come that 
way, it must be a higher hedge than ordinary that 
must keep them off. If vain thoughts have made 
a road over thy heart, and come that way without 
control, it must be a very high and strong watch 
and resistance that will turn them by in holy duties. 
" He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a 
city that is broken down and without walls." Prov. 
XXV. 28. 

3. These vain thoughts at other times make us 
apprehend it more impossible to conquer, and less 


sinful to be conquered by them. And when dis- 
tractions appear so powerful that there is no 
resisting them, or so harmless that they are not 
worth our trouble to resist them, then is a flood- 
gate opened to let them in ; when once our cou- 
rage is conquered, or our conscience is seared, we 
are quite undone. And thus you see that one sin 
ushers in another, and the looseness of our heart 
at one time, prepares it to be so at another. Even 
as you observe your children are more unruly be- 
fore strangers, or when they should be most 
demure, than at other times; and you are then 
more aware and troubled at their shrewd words 
and gestures, than the whole year besides ; alas ! 
it is not merely that they are worse then, but then 
you take more notice of it ; it is then more observ- 
able and apparent, though their carriage be much 
the same as usual. So it is with your hearts : O, 
cry you, I am more pestered with foolish thoughts 
in prayer or sermon, than in all the day or week 
besides; then my heart is worst, when it should 
be best. Alas ! it is naught all along ; it does but 
as it used to do, only you observe it not at other 
times, and now observe it a little and find it out, 
but it is always so. 


4. These do infect the memory, and imprint 
such notions there as offer and produce them- 
selves, when we are in the service of God. And 
so when " a good man out of the good treasure of 
his heart should bring forth good things," he stum- 
bles upon the vain and unprofitable trash, before 
laid up in his memory, to the grief of God's spirit, 
and hazard of his own. The memory, you know, 
will most easily retain an impertinent story, a 
filthy or foolish imagination a long time, and then 
when an idle heart hits upon it, though God him- 
self looks on, that will run away with the heart, 
and give both matter and strength to a long, woful, 
and wandering distraction. 

How doth the active fancy in our sleep some- 
times light upon some sorry thoughts we had in 
the day, and take them by the end and spin them 
out into a very unhappy dream ? and this casuists 
say, we are responsible for, thought it seem invo- 
luntary ; because we administered matter for it, 
and remotely promoted it ; so we shall be found 
guilty before God, even of our unwilling wander- 
ings in God's service, because we laid up for them 
before. If we brew for them, Satan will be sure 
to broach them. 


5. These idle thoughts, at other times, provoke 
God to give us up to our own inventions. As that 
dreadful word, " Ephraim is joined to idols, let him 
alone." Hosea iv. 17. Seeing he will be married 
to them, and forsake me, let him take them. If a 
man be resolved upon idols, or any other sin, God 
will not hinder him. So when he finds the heart 
joined, taken up, and pleased with vain thoughts, 
good motions knock and wait, but are not accepted 
or heeded ; come and knock again with double 
earnestness, " How long shall vain thoughts lodge 
within thee?" but are not regarded, sin and the 
heart are making merry within ; come and try once 
more, open now or never; and no answer; nay, 
now the soul is joined to these things, " let him 
alone." Sleep on now, and take thy rest. Trouble 
him no more in his vain inventions. " So I gave 
them over to their own heart's lust, and they 
walked in their own counsels." Psalm Ixxxi. 12. If 
they choose hell before heaven, let them take it. 
My spirit shall not always strive with man. And 
now when the soul is given up to a vagabond 
frame, then thy weak purposes and faint watchful- 
ness over it stand for nothing, but are broken like 
Sampson's cords ; and a deluge of all manner of 


impertinencies breaks in, and the heart is prosti- 
tuted to all temptations. 

The remedy against these idle thoughts out of 
duties, is, 

1. A right understanding what a vain thought 
is. Though it sound somewhat harsh that all 
thoughts are either good or bad, the matter of 
some being in itself indifferent, yet if we consider 
the principle and tendency of them, we shall hardly 
light upon one individual thought, but it hath either 
the stamp of good or evil upon it. It is certain, 
that a wicked man's thoughts are all vain, as they 
come from him, neither flowing from a sanctified 
heart, nor being directed to a divine end. Ah ! 
poor sinners, your hearts are little worth, the ima- 
ginations of them are materially, or formally, or 
finally evil, only evil, and that continually. The 
sweetest words from corrupt lungs do stink in the 
nostrils of them that stand by, and so your best 
thoughts coming from corrupt hearts, cannot be 
right in the sight of God. 

And then for a gracious man, it should seem 
every thought comes either from the old man or 
the new, the regenerate or unregenerate part ; 
especially if we consider that there is hardly a 


thought but it may be resolved ultimately either 
into Christ or self. Let it therefore be concluded, 
that every thoughf that is not suggested or directed 
by the Spirit of God, and that no way conduceth 
to the glory of God, the good of your neighbour, 
nor the welfare of your own soul or body, is a vain 
thought, it might be spared, it stands for nothing, 
it is worse than nothing. 

2. Be thoroughly convinced that vain thoughts 
are sins.* They are not free from the law of God, 
though they be free from the lash of man. The 
Rabbins had a strange exposition of that text, " If 
I regard inquity in my heart, God will not hear 
me;" Psalm Ixvi. 18; they read it thus, "If 
inquity do but remain within the heart, and be not 
produced into act, God will not regard it ;" and so 
the Pharisees of the decalogue, as if God had only 
forbidden the outward acts of sin ; but Ihere is 
nothing more contrary to the nature of God, or of 
his law, or of the souls of men, than this. I won- 
der how they could overlook all these direct 
passages in the Old Testament, " Thou shalt not 
hate thy brother in thy heart — thou shalt not say 

* The greatest good and evil that ever was in the world 
was first but a little thought. — Angitr. 


in thy heart," Levit. xix. 17, and innumerable 
other such passages. No, no, thoughts are words 
before God, "I know the things that come into 
your mind, every one of them." Ezek. xi. 6. What 
is sin, but a deviation or transgression of the law 
of God? and this is a woful thing. Sin, even in a 
thought, is a woful thing ; nay, words and actions 
are as it were sins at second-hand. The very first 
life, and freshest vigour of all ill, is immediately 
inspired into the thoughts. Hence it is that 
Peter advised Simon Magus to pray to God, if it 
were possible, that the thoughts of his heart might 
be forgiven him : as though there lay the greatest 
guilt, and deepest stain before God. Alas ! one 
vain thought would bring down the highest angel 
into the lowest hell ; and that which would damn 
an angel will damn thee, except thou repent. If 
millions of angels have fallen by sinful thoughts, 
and yet thou standest under the guilt of many, 
thank free grace, and the death of Christ for that ; 
but yet thy sin is still as bad, and thou hadst need 
to " cleanse the filthiness of the spirit, as well as 
of the flesh." 

3. Daily wind up your spiritual watch, and 
renew your covenant with God in prayer. Draw 


all your parts and faculties into covenant; "I 
made a covenant with my eyes ; why then should 
I think upon a maid?" Job xxxi. 1. Behold the 
blessed purity of this man's heart ! Neither eye 
nor thought of his should wander after a maid; 
and this he vows. Though good purposes are the 
resorts of hypocrites, whose covenants to God are 
like ropes of sand, broken as Soon as made : yet 
when they are accompanied with repentance for 
former falls, and hearty endeavour for future per- 
formance, no better sign of an upright christian. 
Know that constant watchfulness is a duty; that 
as nature hath provided a cover for the eye, so 
grace hath prepared watchfulness for the soul ; 
and as it would be a fearful sight to see an eye 
without a lid, it would soon be put out ; so it is a 
fearful thing to keep a soul without its case, with- 
out its watch. " Let not thy heart envy," or 
imitate, " sinners ; but be thou in the fear of the 
Lord all the day long ;" Prov. xxiii. 17; not only 
at prayer times, but all the day long. Be sure 
that every morning you sincerely and solemnly 
relieve your watch, by new purposes and prayers, 
and then when vain thoughts attempt to come in, 
you may say, *' I have sworn, and I will perform 


it, that I will keep thy righteous judgements." And 
labour that all your thoughts may hold weight with 
that excellent scripture, " Finally, brethren, what- 
soever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, 
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are 
pure, whatsoever things are of good report, if there 
be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on 
these things." Phil. iv. 8. 

4. Repent thoroughly and heartily for them. 
For as humiliation without reformation is a founda- 
tion without a building, so reformation without 
humiliation is a building without a foundation, 
which the next wind of temptation will throw down. 
" To wash the heart," — mark, it must not be swept 
only in the brinish tears of repentance, — is the way 
to " dislodge vain thoughts from within you." Jer. 
iv. 18. If you felt the smart and bitter pangs of 
true repentance to-night for your vain thoughts, it 
would affright and mortify the heart from them to- 
morrow ; you would have no mind to tamper with 
the vanities that cost you so dear ; the burnt child 
would dread the fire, and the fresh remembrance 
of the heart-ache you had for these guests yester- 
day, would bolt them out from coming in to-day. 
If our sins cost us, in David's sense, broken bones, 


we should not so easily sin again. If the scholar, 
after his improper absence, stole to his place un- 
observed and uncorrected, he will easily venture 
on his freaks again to-morrow ; but if he tasted the 
rod, the smart he felt will somewhat warn and 
keep him from such follies again. Ah ! sirs, our 
repentance is easy, and our confessions compli- 
ments ; we forgive ourselves ere God forgives us ; 
we can consider ourselves whole without the cost 
of a tear or sigh, and then we are ready for a sin 
again ; he that finds it easy to repent, will not find 
it hard to sin. Verbal repentance will never cure 
you of real sins. It is your sad thoughts that will 
prevent your vain ones, and idle thoughts are best 
excluded by keeping the heart full of good ones. 



The eleventh cause of wandering thoughts in 
the ordinances of God, is a divided heart ; " For 
he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven 
with the wind and tossed." James i. 6, 8. The 


forlorn picture of a roving heart, carried up and , 
down, as the wind of any temptation pleaseth: 
the cause, a double mind ; " a double-minded man 
is unstable in all his ways." The word signifies 
one that hath two souls ; one that " speaks with a 
double heart." Psalm xii. 2. Like that profane 
wretch that boasted he had two souls in one body ; 
one for God, the other for any thing that came. 
This man is the unstable man in God's service, 
off and on with God, unfixed to his business, knows 
not what he would have, prays and unprays, wants 
faith for the ballast of his soul, and so is carried at 
the pleasure of every wave ; and then is the 
misery of this frame. " Let not this man think 
that he shall obtain any thing of the Lord ;" that 
is though God may answer such requests out of 
his superabundant mercy, yet such a man can look 
for nothing. Though a distracted prayer may re- 
ceive something, yet it cannot expect any thing 
from God ; when a man's supplication is a pro- 
vocation, there is little hope : he that puts treason 
into his petition, hath little reason to hope for a 
good answer. 

Now a heart may be said to be divided in a duty 
these ways : — 


1. When all the heart is not engaged therein ; 
as when the understanding or conscience, without 
the will or affections. This opens a door unto 
distractions, " Doing the will of God from the 
heart, with good will doing service as to the Lord, 
and not to men." Eph. vi. 6. Half a heart can 
do nothing with God. A man may as we41 with 
one eye observe the stars, and with the other 
measure the earth at the same time, as at once 
transact affairs with God and man. Hereby both 
objects are spoiled : conscience of God hinders 
from any discreet and serious contrivance of any 
thing in his presence ; and tampering with the 
world provokes God, and hinders the affairs above. 
Our Lord Christ is most peremptory in that case : 
ye cannot serve two masters, the one will be over- 
served, " Ye cannot serve God and mammon." 

2. The heart may be said to be divided when 
it is unfixed and indeterminate, — wavering and 
unsettled. A duty to God is shooting at a hair's 
breadth ; if a man be uncertain and unsteady, how 
shall he hit the mark? "O God, my heart is 
fixed ; I will sing and give praise." Psalm Ivii. 7. 
Now the work is likely to go on. You cannot, it 
seems, so much as sing a psalm, or give the Lord 



praise, without this fixedness of heart. As you 
have seen tlie needle in a compass, waver up 
and down perpetually till it point towards the north, 
then it is fixed and standeth still ; so until the soul 
be composed, and bent directly towards God, it 
wanders and trifles everlastingly. 

3. The heart is divided by hypocrisy. — 
" Purify your hearts, ye double minded." James 
iv. 8. As he speaks to open sinners to " cleanse 
their hands," so to close hypocrites, to "purify 
their hearts," that is, be sincere. A hypocrite is a 
man of two hearts, and both little worth ; one good 
one is worth a thousand pair of double hearts. 
Hence holy David, " Unite my heart to fear thy 
name," Psalm Ixxxvi. 11, else I shall have one 
heart to move me towards thee, and another heart 
to fetch me back again. One heart for God, and 
another for Baal, and so shall halt between them. 

4. The heart is divided when you perform not 
his service with all your might and strength. 
" Cursed is he that doth the work of the Lord 
negligently," Jer. xlviii. 10, loosely, that unbends 
his bow, that unstrings his heart in the Lord's 
service. He that is studying with all his might,, 
the least noise or word distracts him, and troubles 


him ; he cannot admit or endure the least diver- 
sion : so he that is intent with all his might in 
God's service, cannot give room for the least by- 
thought. No, I am before the Lord, and I can do 
but little ; but I will do what I can. " Bless the 
Lord, my soul, and all that is within me, praise 
his holy name." Psalm ciii. 1. And this leads us 
to the remedy for this evil. 

The remedy for a divided heart is to get sin- 
cerity and seriousness. And indeed the soul that 
is sincere is serious. The real beggar entreats in 
good earnest; he cries, he weeps, he heeds not the 
playing of the children, nor the barking of the 
dogs ; his wants pinch him, his stomach craves, 
nothing but meat will please him. There is music 
perhaps within, and company without, but all is 
lost to him ; he is not concerned therewith, he is 
hungry in good earnest, and therefore still he cries 
for bread ; so it is with the upright and serious heart ; 
he is really and deeply pressed down with sin, and 
needy of grace and comfort ; he sees the reality of 
invisible things ; he fears the anger of God, and 
feels his broken bones, and therefore let the devil, 
or the world, disturb what they can, or suggest 
what they will, he plies his business, he must have 


pardon and grace, and the light of the Lord's 
countenance : it is not the stirring of a feather 
which can unhinge him, for he is in good earnest. 
" For who is this that hath engaged his heart, do 
draw nigh to me, saith the Lord." Jer. xxx. 21. 
Where sits that man, that gives a heart to God? 
the Lord cries, Who ? Oh, let every one that 
reads this, cry out, " Lord, it is I ;" and when 
the heart, the whole heart is engaged in a duty, 
then work goes on. There is a vast difference 
between the pleading of an orator, and the plead- 
ing of a malefactor. The former hath perhaps 
a more smooth, elegant, and starched discourse, 
but hs handles it with a light finger; a friend 
or a fee would take him off; but the malefactor 
that pleads for his life, cries and begs ; the 
judge interrupts him, but he goes on ; the jailor 
tries to stop his mouth, but he will proceed ; all 
the court cannot distract his mind from his busi- 
ness, his heart is wholly in it. And so it is 
with a sincere and serious saint : he can truly say, 
Lord thou hast more of my heart than ever any 
creature in the world had ; my heart is fixed, I am 
set upon this affair ; the great matters I am about, 
I neither can live nor dare die without them, and 


therefore blame rac not tliat I am busy. It is the 
pmyer that costs us much which prevails. 



The twelfth cause of wandering thoughts in 
God's worship is, " an opinion that there is no great 
evil in them ;" which partly proceeds from the 
notion, that thoughts are free, or at least, that no 
sin is really sin except it be voluntary, and these 
are without consent; partly from our being used 
to greater sins, which widen the conscience to 
digest these lesser ones without any straining ; and 
partly from the commonness of them, being the 
snares wherein we are most frequently taken ; and 
the oftener they walk through the heart, the less 
strange are they there ; the more familiar they are, 
the more apology we make for them ; and so 
usually it becomes a sin that we have a mind unto. 

And now, when there is bred in the soul an 
opinion that there is no evil, or next to none there- 
in, the heart is pleased with it, and merily plays 


with those baits, till by the hidden hook it is caught 
in the unseen snare of the devil. To rectify this 

1. Somewhat must be granted. The evil in 
these wandering thoughts is not so great, as in 
many other sins ; these do not lay the conscience 
waste as some others, especially those roving 
thoughts, which are rather injected, than contri- 
ved ; the matter whereof is good, not evil, and 
which are short and grieved over. But who will 
swallow a spider, and say, there is not so much 
poison in this as in a toad ; or break his leg, and 
say there is not such danger therein, as breaking 
the neck ? even so, it is a poor plea to say, these 
trivial things are not like oaths, and murders, and 
oppressions, etc. But these are great enough to 
displease God, to bind guilt upon the soul, to pre- 
pare for greater, and therefore bid fair for hell. 

2. Something must be answered, as namely, 
1. That our thoughts are free from the notice of 
men on earth, or Satan in hell, further than they 
are imprinted in the body or actions ; though they 
are free from the punishment of human laws, yet 
are they not free from the eye, nor wrath of God, 
as you heard in divers instances before, and par- 


ticularly in the case of Simon Magus. Acts viii 
22. And, 2. That other notion is corrupt, that 
nothing is culpable that is involuntary : it is true, 
this doth extenuate a fault, but this doth not ex- 
tinguish it : it is a less fault* in that case, but it is 
a fault ; for the understanding may be depraved as 
well as the will ; and we are really guilty in 
Adam's sin, though we had no previous consent 
therein. It is a fault that we are subjects capable 
of such sinful injections, though we yield not to 
them ; for there is something in us which en- 
courages those attempts : the angels meet with 
none of these. The will in a sort hes dormant 
when we are asleep, and yet casuists say, there 
wants not sin, even in our dreams ; for the fancy and 
the memory may be corrupted, as well as the will; 
and therefore it follows, these wandering thoughts 
may be against God's will, though they be beside 
our own. And, 3. For our proneness to greater 
sins, and frequency in them, that signifies little 

* Nay, in some respects, the more involuntary any sin is, 
the more strong and natural it is ; and the more natural, the 
more horrible ; as a natural thief is worse than a deliberate 
thief, who sometimes steals : and in this respect, involun- 
tary sins may be worst of all. — Shepherd. 


herein: for crimes do not excuse faults. The 
stars are the same in the firmament all day, though 
while the sun shines they appear not ; when the 
sun is retired, they will show themselves : while 
your greater sins appear, these are nothing ; but if 
ever a night of terror come upon you, then each 
of these will shine in its proper guilt, in the eye of 
conscience. And then, 4. The commonness of 
them adds to their sinfulness, though it lessen your 
sense-thereof. If your neighbour for a time break 
over your hedge, and tread down your corn, the 
matter is soon made up, it is but a trespass by 
chance ; but if he daily do so, and make it his 
way, you think it is intolerable ; so if a wandering 
thought stole in once a week, it were a less of- . 
fence ; but if they will transgress and make a way 
over God's ground, spoil his garden often in every 
day, this makes the sin the greater, though the 
sense of it be the less. 

3. Something must be advised for cure. And 
that is, 1. A true knowledge, and deep sense of 
the nature of sin, whereby you will see, that no sin 
can be httle ; that there is more evil in the least 
sin, in a vain thought, than in all^ the plagues and 
judgements in the world besides. Hence, saith 


God, "Behold I will bring evil upon this people, 
even the fruit of their thoughts." Jer. vi. 19. 
All the possible sorrows that can tear the mind 
and soul ; all the sickness and sores that can be 
inflicted on every part of the body ; all the mis- 
chiefs that can sink thy name and estate, put them 
ail together, amount not to that real evil that is in 
the least sin.* For it is an offence to God, dis- 
pleasing him whom the angels study to please, 
and would not offend for ten thousand worlds. 
" Against thee, thee only have I sinned." Psalm 
li. 4. The greatest evil in sin is, that it is against 
God ; by it you provoke the highest Majesty, and 
offend your chief friend. And if I know a little 
thing will offend such a Being, I am a wretch for 
a little thing to offend so great and good a friend. 
Might not Adam have argued thus, it is but an 
apple, there can be no great hurt in this ; what is 
this to breed a quarrel between God and me ? and 
yet we have found that little fig or apple a great 

+ The least infirmities do break the first covenant of 
works, and hence you do not only deserve, but are under 
the sentence of death, and curse of God, by the most invol- 
untary accidental infirmity, according to GaL iii. 10. — 


sin. Here was all, God was disobeyed, his will 
opposed, his sovereignty and mercy trodden under 
foot ; and this is the nature of sin : whereof, if the 
soul have a deep sense, it will excuse no longer, 
but frighted at the hideous look thereof, fly even 
into the fire to escape it. " I hate vain thoughts ; 
but thy law do I love." Psalm cxix. 113. I not 
only avoid them, but I hate them ; I see a sinning 
evil in them ; I see a damning evil in them. I 
hate vain thoughts ; not only wicked, wanton, 
revengeful, proud, or blasphemous thoughts, but 
vain thoughts ; empty thoughts fill me with grief.* 
Natural conscience may abhor the former, but a 
soft heart can only oppose the latter. And there 
is the means he used ; " thy law do I love ;" he 
that loves a pure law, cannot but hate a vain 

2. You must apprehend the evils, yea, the 
great evils that are in this sin. For though we 
grant there is more of poison in some other sins, 
and in some distractions more than others, yet 

♦ Though to live in the greatest sin, may consist with the 
form of godliness, yet to live in the least, may not witli the 
power thereof. 


there is much evil in the least of these ; which on 
purpose to ripen your most serious resokitions 
against them, I shall now in the seventh place 
discover — 





The evil of distractions, is, 1. In their nature ; 
2. In their effects. Behold the former in these 

1. These distractions in God's worship are 
sins against the first table. And these pro- 
portionably are always greater than those 
against the second, yet they are a violation of 
every precept of the first table.* For how doth 
he acknowledge God, that in his very presence 

* It would be an heinous offence among the incense of- 
fered to God, to have put brimstone. Thy prayers are thine 
insense, but thy distractions are brimstone, that stink in his 
nostrils. — Chrysostom. 


offends him? or how dost thou honour, love, and 
deHght in him, as the chiefest good, when thou 
startest aside from converse with him, to parley 
with the world and sin? There is the first com- 
mandment broken. Do you worship him accor- 
ding to his will, that thus worship him 1 If material 
images be cast off, and spiritual fornication com- 
mitted, ye are still breakers of that commandment. 
A graven image in the mind, a worldly or wicked 
fancy there, where Christ should be, cannot but 
provoke him to be very angry. There is the 
second commandment broken. And these mani- 
festly break the third commandment, being a 
palpable " taking his great name in vain." To 
speak of God, and think of the world ; to hold 
discourse with him, and to think of your lusts, is 
a high taking his name in vain. As if the wife 
should be speaking busily with her husband, and 
at the same time looking at the picture of a para- 
mour, what rage would this excite in her husband's 
heart ? To make the name of God a cloak for 
the things of the world, for the worst thing sin, is 
the saddest sacrilege ; and for which he will not 
hold you guiltless if he find you griefless. And 
then the fourth commandment is broken by a direct 


theft committed of God's holy time ; that which 
you ^consecrate at your kneehng down to his 
service, is purloined away by these roving thoughts, 
especially when they invade the sabbath. For 
when you seem to give him much, in effect it 
comes to nothing ; sift out the bran of your wan- 
dering thoughts, and the flour of holy service will 
be next to nothing. And so your time is lost, 
your duty lost, and danger of your soul's loss after 
all. And thus you see the first table broken at a 
blow ; it is a 'sad blow which breaks four com- 
mands at once. 



The second evil in their nature is, that they are 
heart sins. " There is no faithfulness in their 
mouths, their inward part is very wickedness." 
Psalm V. 9. As wounds in the internal parts of 

* God forbids us to find our pleasure on his holy day. 
Isaiah Iviii. 13. And do we not find our pleasure by our 
thoughts ? — Angier. 


the body are most dangerous, because hard to 
come at and cure. Hence, it is easier to cure a 
swearer of swearing, than a roving heart of its dis- 
tractions. And as these sins are more dangerous, 
so are they very displeasing. The heart is God's 
field, the inclosure he keeps for his own walk and 
delight. He hath said, " My son, give me thy 
heart." Prov. xxiii. 26. Now to injure him of his 
pecuhar, to thrust him out of his mansion-house on 
earth, the heart, is no small injury, affront and un- 
kindness. And such a *' backshder in heart shall 
be filled with his own ways," if he fill not the 
sacred bottles with his tears. And they are more 
heavy to the conscience, in that they meet with no 
shame or trouble without, which is the ordinary lot 
of other sins, but are begun and perfected in the 
heart within ; and their guilt is greater because 
their shame is less. And they do thereupon leave, 
as such other sins do, a deeper sting of remorse, 
and horror of conscience, when the conscience is 
awake. There is much evil in these. " I am 
broken with their whorish heart, which hath de- 
parted from me." Zech. vi. 9. 




The third evil in the nature of them is, that they 
are sins in the special presence of God. We read 
of God showing the prophet, with infinite wrath, 
" five and twenty men at the door of the temple of 
the Lord, between the porch and the altar, with 
their backs towards the temple of the Lord, and 
their faces towards the east, and they v. orshipped 
the Sim towards the east." Ezek. viii. 16. This 
he highly resented, that in his temple they should 
have their faces towards the sun, and turn their 
backs on him. This is the manner of a roving 
heart. In God's own presence he turns his back 
on God, and his face to the things under the sun, 
and those he worships. O infinite patience ! that 
turns not such a soul into a pillar of salt ; yea, 
throws it not into a pit of brimstone ! " Therefore, 
as I live, saith the Lord God, surely, see how he 
binds it with double strength, because thou hast 


defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, 
and with all thy abominations, therefore I also will 
diminish thee. A third part shall die with the 
pestilence." Ezek. v. 11. Which of all thy de- 
testable sins but thou hast committed in the sanc- 
tuary and presence of God? now a proud, now a 
wanton, then a worldly thought. Ah, says God, I 
cannot bear it. He that provokes me to my face, 
shall feel it. Few think these sins have brought 
the plague, any more than the Corinthians did their 
unworthy partaking at the Lord's table. In his 
special presence he looks at thee. " He sets all 
our iniquities before him ;" but he places these 
" secret sins in the light of his countenance." 
Psalm xc. 8. O this is an evil thing, and a bitter, 
that thou shouldest provoke the Lord to his face, 
and that his fear doth not awe thee. " Yea, in my 
house have I found their wickedness, saith the 
Lord," Jer. xxxi. 11 ; this pollutes it with a 
double stain. " I am God Almighty, walk before 
me and be thou perfect." Gen. xvii. 1. To be- 
lieve that you are sitting, standing, kneeling before 
God should make you perfect. How seriously 
doth the child stand before his father, the scholar 
before his master ? and shall the child of God only 


forget himsein the poorest scholar, before the 
best masters ? Remarkable indeed was that exe- 
cution. — Two of Aaron's sons came with their 
censers, " and offered strange fire before the Lord, 
which he commanded them not ; and there went 
out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and 
they died before the Lord." Lev. x. 1,2. Behold 
the dreadful hand of God ! before him was their sin, 
before him they were punished. Lord, how terri- 
ble art thou in thy holy place ! If no place will 
deter them from sin, no place shall be a sanctuary 
to them from judgement. What are distracted 
thoughts but strange fire ? and a *strange punish- 
ment may the workers of iniquity have, if timely 
repentance prevent not. 



The fourth evil in their nature is, that they are 
sins about the most serious business. The grand- 

* A greater curse goeth with an evil thought in God's 
service, than if it were another time; times of blessing per- 
verted, are times of greatest curse. — Jingier. 


est affairs under the sun are transacted in an 
ordinance. I have read of a nobleman of this 
nation, tjiat when his cause of hfe and death was 
trying, though he had a pardon in his pocket at the 
same time, he was irrevocably sentenced, being 
during that time asleep ; he was sleeping while the 
judge was passing sentence. Was not this a gross 
neglect, and did not he, suppose ye, bite his nails, 
and beat his head, that could not watch when his 
head was in question 1 Sinner, thy head, and life 
and soul, and all are in question ; thy eternal happi- 
ness is completing, or thy dreadful sentence passing, 
and is this a time to trifle and wander away from 
God? If you should come to the elbow of a coun- 
sellor pleading at the bar, much more of one 
impeached for treason, and tell them, such a com- 
panion hath sent for them to the tavern, or that the 
cattle have broken into such a field, or that such a 
game of chess is likely to be lost ; with what dis- 
dain and indignation would they reject such a mes- 
sage, and cry, Is this the time to trouble me with 
these things? when the very hearing of such an 
errand may lose my cause, or hazard my life.* 

♦ Consider what a prayer is worth ; every tloing is worth, 
according to what we can have for it ; why a man may 


Are com or companions equal to immortal souls? 
What are these to the things between God and 
me? If the dead must not be hurried when Christ 
calls ; nor a man stay to take leave of his friends, 
how greatly doth he trespass that runs riot after 
toys and sins, when the great God calls and calls 
again? We have a clear instance. The preacher 
was at Martha's house, and serious in his sermon : 
Martha, good woman, was cumbered and dis- 
tracted with much serving ; Mary sat at her Sa- 
viour's feet, and heard his word. Saith Martha, I 
think it much that my sister must have all the 
dainties, and I all the distractions ; master, rectify 
this inequality. Ah, saith our Lord, " Martha, 
Martha, thou art cumbered, or as the word signi- 
fies, distracted, about many things ; but one thing 
is needful." Luke x. 41, 42. Mary is embarked 
in a most necessary affair, and worldly cumber is 
improper for a heavenly business. She that is 
working for her soul, hath work enough at that 
time. Salvation, eternal salvation! Eternal sal- 
have grace and glory for a fervent prayer. If you should 
sell that for a trifle, when another had thousands for the 
same, wouldest thou not befool thyself? — White. 


vation of soul and body ; these are not things to 
trifle about. 



The fifth evil of these rovings of heart, is, that 
they are sins of hypocrisy. And there can be no 
little evil in the sin of hypocrisy. What is hypoc- 
risy, but the honour of the lips, and the distance of 
the heart, Matt. xv. 7, 8, as it is said of the night- 
ingale, a sound of words, and no soundness in the 
heart, that is hypocrisy, of all sins most odious 
unto God and man. And though the purpose of 
the heart be wanting to make it formal, and full 
hypocrisy, yet a custom in these will produce that 
at length, and he that useth to lie in jest, will com.e 
at length to he in earnest. " Ephraim compasseth 
me about with lies." Hos. xi. 12. Oh, how often 
may the Lord say over us. These people compass 
me about with lies. What a generation of vipers 
are here ! like the viper that is speckled without, 
and poisonous within ! Moses took a veil when he 


spake to Israel, and put it off when he spake to 
God. But the hypocrite doth quite contrary, he 
shows his best to men, his worst to God, but the 
Lord sees both the veil and the face ; and it is hard 
to say, whether he hates more the veil of dissimu- 
lation or the face of wickedness. This is a disap- 
pointing of God, in a sense deceiving him. "Cursed 
be the deceiver, that hath in his flock a male, and 
voweth and sacrificeth to God a corrupt thing." 
Mai. i. 4. Yea, saith God, you have in your flock 
a male, you can be serious when you will, but a 
corrupt thing, it seems, will serve my turn ; you dis- 
appoint me, you deceive me, you appoint a meet- 
ing between your heart and me, and here I come, 
and the heart is gone ; you knock at my door, with 
great earnestness, and when I come, the heart is 
gone ; you are deceivers, and deserve my curse. 
If this be not repented and reformed, such deceit- 
ful hypocrites must carry away no blessing of 
mii^e, but a curse. 

A prayer, though but of forty words, sincerely 
made and every syllable felt, shall prevail more 
with God, than a long oration with half a heart ; 
and the meanest sermon heard with a prepared, 
humble, and attentive heart, shall receive a greater 


blessing, than a better sermon with a worse heart ; 
for God is a spirit, and appearances are nothing 
with him ; he that seems to serve him, and doth 
not, provokes him the more. An eye to heaven, 
and a heart for hell ; and humble knee and a 
haughty spirit ; a serious posture and a frivolous 
soul, are abominable to the Lord.* 



In the next place, the evil of distractions is seen 
in their effects, whereof these are some. 

First, they alienate the heart from holy duties. I 

* Thy wandering duties Satan keeps as bills of indict- 
ment against the great day ; what is good in them, he lays 
before thee now to quiet thy conscience, but miserable com- 
forters are those which pacify the conscience, but purify it 
not. — White. 

I In this sense they are a curse ; for what is a curse but 
separation from God. Think then when wandering 
thoughts come to us in holy duties, the curse comes, and 
when they stay with us, the curse stays. — Angler. 


When we miss of God, we have small mind to his 
service again. It is the comparison of a learned 
divine, when there is no marrow in the bone, we 
quickly throw the bone away ; even so when the 
sweet enjoyment of God is not found in an ordi- 
nance, which is lost by the roving heart, we shall 
ere long cast away that ordinance, except shame or 
custom restrain us. Now when the soul cares not 
for prayer, or other ordinances, it is a sad effect ; 
the Lord may say to thee, with more right and 
reason than Dalilah did, " How canst thou say, I 
love thee, when thine heart is not with me?" 
Judges xvi. 15. What love is that without a heart? 
Where the affectionis, there the thoughts will be 
also. I may truly invert this and say, where the heart 
is not before, there love will not come after. Let 
the whole soul be seriously engaged in any duty of 
prayer, singing, reading, or hearing, and you will 
be loth to leave that duty, and wanting to be at it 
again. O the sweetness therein and love there- 
unto ! " I shall never forget thy precepts, for with 
them thou hast quickened me." Psalm cxix. 93. 
Oh, when shall I come and appear before God ! 
that every day were a sabbath, then should I be 
well, as said that famous instance of practical 


piety, Mr. Brnen, of Bruen Stapleford. Hence, 
with a gracious heart, one duty prepares, and gets 
a reUsh for another. But you shall find, when the 
heart is out of tune, and boating about the bush, 
and but little of it with God ; then, it is the most 
wearisome employment in the world ! A man had 
rather thrash than pray, that hath his heart in the 
barn, when he is in prayer. And there is no lively 
desires, or longings of soul to that business, 
wherein he felt so little of God. Hence it is so 
hard to get a worldly family together to prayer; 
alas ! the duty is a distraction to them ; when they 
come, they still leave their hearts behind them ; 
you cannot make them enjoy an ordinance, whose 
hearts usually run out of an ordinance. 



The second effect of distractions is, that they 
much affront the majesty of God. It was a high 
affront to God that his people, after they had ex- 
perience of him, yet in " their hearts they turned 


back into Egypt." Acts vii. 39. This is the wis- 
dom of a roving heart ; come, say they, we hke not 
this presence nor work in our hearts ; let us walk 
into the world again. " But as for them, whose 
heart walketh after the heart of their detestable 
things, I will recompence their way upon their own 
heads, saith the Lord God." Ezek. xi. 21. Here 
one detestable thing offers itself and there another ; 
for every thing that draws the heart from God, its 
chief good, is therein detestable. Now when 
" the heart walks after them," that is the right vein 
of distractions. Where the heart walks after every 
trifle, he shall have enough of his ways, saith the 
Lord. Must the great God wait on a simple 
worm, till he can be at leisure to speak with him 1 
shall the worst of evils be courted, while the chief 
good is shghted, and yet even then pretend his 
service? As if some miserable scullion at the 
court had made use of great means to possess 
the king with his low condition, and when the king 
is come to speak with him, he hes sweeping the sink, 
or scouring the spit, and there lets his prince wait on 
him to no purpose ; may not he justly say, when I 
come next to meet you, you shall know the differ- 
ence between the majesty of a king, and the 


wretchedness of a scuttion. Just so, poor soul, do 
thou and I obtain leave to approach our heavenly 
Lord and King, and when he expects the heart 
earnestly to solicit her great affairs, she is roving 
away, and bestowed in the kitchen, or worse, 
while the great and holy God stands waiting .to be 
gracious. What father but would take it for a 
great indignity to see his son stopping his ears, or 
whistling, or playing with flies, while he is reading 
his last will and testament to him, or giving him 
directions about his greatest affairs t And is not 
God greater than a father? and can he with his 
honour abate such a child his punishment, if he do 
not humbly cry to him for mercy, and study to 
offend no more? Though divine vengeance be 
not always as visible as a parent's rod, yet it is 
as real and more heavy. 



The third effect of distractions is, that they hin- 


der the benefits of a holy duty. God seldom thinks 
of those prayers, that we think not of ourselves. 
" And there is none that calleth on thy name, that 
stirreth up himself to take hold of thee." Isaiah 
Ixiv. 7. The Lord counts such prayers as none 
at all, when a man doth not stir up himself to his 
business.* That which in God's account hath no 
being, can have no good effect. The benefits of 
ordinances are many and great ; they are like the 
medium to sensation, as the air to the eye or ear : 
there is no seeing nor hearing without it ; so are 
ordinances to the soul ; they are the conduits to 
convey God's grace to us, and cur desires to him ; 
when a dirty distraction gets in, the conduit is 
stopped and the soul starved. And in this sense 
God's name, which should be most sacred and 
dear to us, is most palpably taken in vain. "VS hen 
we use a great solemnity to no effect; the wind 
and tide to serve, and yet the soul to sleep ; the 
mariner to be at dice or cards, till the opportunity 

* What is the reason that christians are so much shadows 
rather than substance, when they come to forgive injuries, 
depend on God, etc., but because their service of God is 
more in show than in substance, according to that threaten- 


be lost, what a great evil is this, when our voyage 
is for life and death 1 If you could by the expense 
of one serious hour gain a lordship, would you not 
be intense and earnest that hour 1 would you not 
reject the company that would divert you, and dis- 
dain any ordinary business that would interrupt 
you ? stay, and let me alone this hour, for I am 
busy. Now by the good management of one seri- 
ous hour in prayer, reading, hearing, or medita- 
tion ; you may, yea shall infallibly gain at least one 
grain of grace, which is worth more than a king- 
dom, yea, than a whole world. And is not that an 
evil thing, and bitter, that then interrupts you and 
frustrates your profitable employment, whereby it 
comes to pass that you get nothing ? Pearls are 
being given, and you get nothing. Orient graces 
in the hand of God, ready to give, and you obtain 
none of them ; who would entertain, that can be 
rid of such companions. 





The fourth effect of these distractions is, that 
they deprive the soul of its purest comforts. The 
highest, truest, and purest joys and comforts, meet 
the soul in the service of God. " I sate under his 
shadow with great delight," there are then delights, 
and great ones too in the ways of God, " and his 
fruit was sweet to my taste." If thou hast any 
spiritual taste, his fruit will be sweet to it. " He 
brought me to the banqueting-house." Cant. ii. 3, 
4. God's house is his banqueting-house, and 
every ordinance is a rare feast to the soul that doth 
spiritually improve it. Now these idle wanderings 
of the heart, first by their disturbance, then by their 
guilt, do damp and deprive the soul of the comforts 
thereof. Just as a black cloud doth hide from you 
the bright and warming beams of the sun. How 
often have you missed of those joys of the Holy 
Ghost, sweeter than the music of the spheres, by 
these vain thoughts] with what sweet content do 


you look back on a duty, where communion hath 
been held between God and you 1 and what a folly 
is it to lose an hour, and neither reap pleasure nor 
profit by it ? * 

There is fatness in God's house, and rivers of 
pleasures with him, but he shall have " leanness in 
his soul" that gives way to these, and of all those 
rivers drinks not a drop, not one drop of true com- 
fort and pleasure. O what a heaven do negligent 
sinners lose? how many gracious smiles, blessed 
tokens, celestial raptures, the dainty diet of angels, 
and all through the idleness of the soul ! " My 
soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness ;" 1 
am full, brimful of joy and comfort, my heart runs 
over, and " my mouth shall praise thee with joyful 
Tips." Psalm Ixiii. 5. INow all these gleams of 
sweet comfort and refreshing, are stolen away by 
these wicked distractions. For an upright and at- 
tentive heart would seldom want the sweet com- 

* Thy prayers will tire thee out, for thou hast only the 
difficult part of duty ; thou crackest the shell, but eatest not 
the kernel ; like one that reads an excellent book, whose 
sense or language he understands not, which is a great 
trouble, whereas he that understands both is much de- 
lighted. — White. 


forts, that usually accompany sincerity and seri- 
ousness. He that can keep his meditations fixed 
on the right object, his meditation shall be sweet ; 
and where should the Lord make his servants 
joyful, but in the house of prayer? 



The fifth effect of distractions in the worship of 
God is, that they grieve away the Holy Ghost. It 
is true what the blessed apostle hath said, " The 
Spirit helpeth our infirmities," Rom. viii. 26, and 
so he helps against these when they are but infir- 
mities mourned for and striven against ; but when 
they are contracted habits, then they grieve and 
quench the Holy Spirit. The Greek word in that 
scripture signifies " to take and heave up a thing 
over against you," to heave with you. But if our 
spirits instead of helping shrink away, and heave 
none, this promise will do us no good. If we leave 
the business wholly to God's Spirit, without our 
diligent co-operation, he will leave it to our spirits, 


without his divine co-operalion. The Holy Ghost 
will dwell only with a holy heart, and these idols in 
the heart do heavily trouble that sweet Spirit. 
" Son of man, these men have set up their idols in 
their heart, and put the stumblingrblock of their 
iniquity before their face, should I be inquired of 
at all by them?" Ezek. xiv. 3. Read on, and you 
will see what consequence this is of. What are 
worldly and sinful distractions, but idols in the 
heart ? what are abused objects of the eye or ear, 
but the stumbling-blocks of iniquity before the 
face ? and how can the Holy Spirit dwell in such a 
soul, or abide such doings? Luther somewhere 
says that the Holy Ghost dwells not in Babel, but 
in Salem ; that is, delights not in the heart where 
is nothing but confusion, that is the meaning of 
Babel, but in the heart where there is quiet, peace, 
and freedom, that is the meaning of Salem. " In 
Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling-place 
in Sion." Psalm Ixxvi. 2. The unkindness offered 
is very great; as if you should earnestly importune 
some noble friend, to accompany and help you in 
some arduous affair, and he comes to go with you, 
once and again ; and still, when you should come 
along, and promote your own business, you steal 


away about some trivial matters, and leave your 
noble friend in the lurch. This is the very case : 
you humbly importune the Holy Spirit of God, to 
help you in the service of God, and he most gra- 
ciously comes to help you ; but one distraction or 
other charms away your heart ; and the Holy Ghost 
is left alone. And thus he is often sinned against, 
till at length he is sinned away. In this way often 
you see the evil of distractions, which was the 
seventh point to be handled. 






And if there be such great evil in these distrac- 
tions, and evil effects of them, what shall an 
upright heart do to be rid of them? I say, an 
upright heart, that inquires for means, to use them, 
and craves a remedy, not to look at, but to apply 
to remedy the evil. And art thou thus resolved, 
that readest these lines 1 For us to spend our skill, 
and you your time, without full purpose to practise, 
is labour in vain ; nay, it will harden your hearts 
here, and increase your condemnation hereafter. 
You will deceive yourselves, and disappoint us, if 
you rest in hearing, without doing what you hear. 
Well, then, are you resolved unfeignedly to take 
the Lord's counsel for the destruction of your dis- 


tractions? Stop a little and resolve. And now 
let me put that question to you, " Who is he that 
hath engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith 
the Lord?" Jer. xxx. 21. Who is this? who will 
do it? who is thus well advised? that hath en- 
gagedj not only made a proffer, but engaged^ and 
that his heart, to approach unto God, and where, 
in this congregation, doth that man sit or stand, 
that out of a deep sense of the hatefulness and 
hurtfulness of this sin, doth now engage his heart 
and soul to use all means against it, and that in 
the uprightness of his heart ? The Lord your God 
sees who yields and cries out, " Through grace I 
am resolved." Well, on that condition I proceed 
to direction. 

1. Dispel the causes before-mentioned^ and use 
the remedies prescribed against them ; and here, if 
you be in good earnest, you will look back and re- 
view them, and the helps adjoined, and beg of 
God, as you read them, " In this, Lord, pardon 
and help thy servant I " A man of small skill may 
easily stop the symptoms of diseases, as the present 
pain in the teeth, or the like ; but he is an artist, 
that removes the causes of them ; and it is more 
easv to turn off two or three of these vain thoughts. 


than to heal the soul of the thought-evil in the 
causes thereof. If these remain, atheism, unpre- 
parediiess, lukewarmness, worldliness, and the 
like in the heart, all the rules and receipts under 
heaven will never cure you of distractions. For 
there will still spring up continual supplies from 
these corrupt causes ; as the lopping of the boughs 
will still have new sprouts coming, until the roots 
be stocked up; and therefore with liiithfulness, and 
resolution, set upon all those remedies that have 
been prescribed. Beg of God to dry up the spring, 
else your damming up the streams will do no good 
When the causes are dispelled, the cure is 

And here is a plain discovery of a hypocrite in 
heart : if some light, easy receipt will help him in 
any case, he may apply it ; but if he must go about 
and take pains ; if the way of cure be in any de- 
gree intricate or difficult, then he throws it up, and 
never will go to the bottom of his business ; 
whereas the upright heart doth but desire to know 
what to do, what is God's method and way, 
and then, long or short, hard or easy, he never dis- 
putes, he demurs not, he falls to work, he knows 
every inch he goes, he gets advantage, and " in 


keeping of God's commandments there is great 
reward." The speediness of his cure he desires, 
but the soundness of it he insists on, and counts no 
trouble in the cure like the evil of his sin. Are you 
resolved in this ? else it is to no purpose to proceed. 
To stumble at the threshold presages ill. But if 
we be clear thus far, I proceed. 



Bewail your former failings in this respect ; 
this will divers ways conduce to your amendment. 

1. Morally, being an argument that you really 
dislike the sin, and the condition of God's pardon 
thereof. The ordinary " Lord have mercy," doth 
herein fall short of pardon, because it is not spoken 
in tears ; if God did but see a man grieve for his 
sin,* a little ado, a few words, should get forgive- 
ness. The publican had but a short prayer, nor 

+ No man was ever kept out of heaven for his confessed 
badness, but many have for their supposed goodness. — 


David upon his dreadful fall ; but they were words 
that were felt, they were heart-deep, they swam in 
tears, each word fetched a drop of blood trom the 
heart; and God was well pleased with them in 
Christ. When Antipater had written a long letter 
to Alexander, against his mother Olympia, his an- 
swer was, Dost thou not know, that one tear from 
my mother's eye, can wash away all her faults'? 
So one penitential tear from a believer's eye can 
prevail much with God in Christ for the pardon of 
his wanderings ; but the most embroidered phrases, 
without this christian grief, prevail not with God at 
all. But when your conscience is touched, and 
the heart melts and bleeds for your faults herein ; 
now, saith God, I see yonder man cannot live with 
a wandering heart, and therefore he shall live iviih- 
out it. I will never see him drowned in his dis- 
tractions, that is thus drowned in tears about them ; 
if he really dislike them, I will really dispel them. 

And then again, till their guilt be pardoned, our 
hearts are usually desperate ; like a wicked spend- 
thrift, while hopeless of a discharge from all, trea- 
sures up sin unto sin, till that dreadful pay-day 
come, the day of judgement. Whereas when sin, 
this sin, is truly grieved for, the Holy Ghost doth 


ever bring a pardon in one hand, and a remedy in 
another; at the same time to clear the guih and 
cure the disease. Oh, saith the soul, I am defiled, 
I am wounded in my flight to heaven, I am disap- 
pointed in my affairs, my God is angry. I have 
sinned just then, when I should have washed out 
my sins. I have sinned against my remedy, and 
how shall I be cured ? Oh I was there ever such 
a rotten backsliding heart ! such a Cain-like wan- 
dering frame ? what place but hell is fit fi:)r that 
heart that cannot rest in heaven ? Ah ! Lord, I 
wonder that the end of my prayer is not the begin- 
ning of my punishment. Though these be but 
small like the sand, yet being many as the sand, 
how can I stand under them? I am ashamed, yea, 
even confounded for these reproaches of my duties. 
Nay, then says God, who hearkens behind the 
curtain all this while, " Is Ephraim my dear son ? 
is not he a pleasant child? I will remember him, 
I will have mercy upon him." "When thou art ripe 
for hell in thy own eyes, then art thou ripe for 
grace and glory in the eyes of God. No man shall 
ever be overborne with a sin he hates. Go, my 
blessed Spirit that has melted him, and mend him, 
that hast softened him, strengthen him ; he that 


laments his sin shall never languish under it.* 
The sacrifice of a broken heart do please him, 
though the sacrifice of a broken Christ alone doth 
satisfy him. 

2. Dispositively, grief at heart doth help forward 
the cure of distractions, and that by softening the 
heart and so fitting the same for the impressions of 
God's will. When the wax is melted, you may 
turn and mould it which way you will ; so when 
the soul is melted by grief for these sins, God Al- 
mighty may easily be heard, and his counsel will 
be taken. And also godly sorrow, as was before 
observed, doth so afflict and makes a man's heart 
to ache and smart, that he will take some pains to 
prevent the like anguish again. When they knock 
at the door, you will say, O these are they that 
cost me dear at such a time ; I feel yet the sad im- 
pressions of my late affliction for them ; I found a 
pardon no easy enterprise, nor repentance so 
pleasing a potion to brew for it again. I would not 
for all the world, much less for one vain thought or 

* To weep for fear is cliildish ; to weep for anger is wo- 
manish ; to weep for grief is humane ; to weep for compas- 
sion is divine ; but to weep for sin is christian. — Bishop 



two, nor for a thousand worlds together, be under 

that anger of God, nor feel one drop of his scalding 
indignation, which I have perceived for these 
offences. O sirs, where godly sorrow is in the 
power of it, what carefulness doth it work 1 what 
zeal, what indignation, yea, what revenge? It 
makes sin lie like a mountain upon the soul, mus- 
ters up all the aggravations of sin, and sets them 
home on the heart. to sin in an ordinance ! 
against such a God ! in the midst of my greatest 
business ! after such conviction ! vows and prom- 
ises of exactness before him ! To offend Father, 
Son, and Holy Ghost at the same time ! heart of 
stone, dost not thou melt? yea to offend the angels 
of heaven, which holy spirits turn away their faces 
at our vanities in the assemblies ; yea, and offend 
the angels upon earth, God's ministers, while that 
which cost them most serious pains, is spoken to 
the air ! to wound my own soul in the professed act 
of curing it, and increase guilt when I am profes- 
sedly getting it cleared ! to play the hypocrite be- 
fore the face of God, the judge of heaven and 
earth ! wretched man that I am ! my sin is 
exceeding sinful! O rend my heart! thou 
Most High ! A broken heart to-day will be a good 



preservative against a wandering heart to-mor- 



Engage the Holy Spirit of God for thine assis- 
tance. " Without me ye can do nothing." John 
XV. 5. Supernatural work cannot be done without 
supernatural help. You may and ought to do 
what a man can do ; that is, compose yourselves, 
and guard your senses ; but you cannot do that 
which only a God can do ; that is fly up, and fix 
your hearts in heaven. " We cannot pray for any 
thing, for matter, as we ought, for the manner, but 
the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us." Rom. 
viii. 25. The Greek word signifies, the Spirit 
over and above steps in and helps ; or, as others^ 
makes vehement intercession for us. We climb 
up the ladder as well as we can towards heaven ; 
but, alas ! it wavers, no stability till the Holy 
Ghost hold it at the top, and draw, and lift us up, 
and then we get a sight of heaven. And you have 
resolved perhaps, and been secure of a good 


frame ; but " he that trusteth in his own heart is a 
fool." Prov. xxviii. 26, you have found no fixed- 
ness or liveUness in your spirits without the assis- 
tance of God ; he that prays aright, must pray in 
the Holy Ghost. Jude 20. This also quickens 
and heats the soul, whereby there is no room, or 
leisure for distracted thoughts. 

Hereby the soul is carried straight up to God and 
stays at nothing on this side heaven ; yea, by the 
Spirit's blessed assistance, "every thought is 
brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." 
blessed frame ! when every thought is compelled 
to obey Christ; there is none can deal with our 
spirits, but the Spirit of God. When the ivord 
comes in the hand of the Spirit, there is no avoid- 
ing it. Then the reading one chapter can convert, 
as that Job i. did the learned Junius ; yea, of one 
verse as that 1 Tim. i. 15, did Mr. Bilney ; yea, 
one sentence can comfort the heart, as that, Isaiah 
Ivii. 15, did the afflicted conscience of one that 
nothing else could satisfy ; thereby the soul is car- 
ried up, as Mr. Tilleman, the martyr, was in his 
devotions, so that he saw or heard nobody, till after 
long search and great noise, his persecutors took 
him up from his knees. The heart is so carried 


upwards to God, that all the world looks as incon- 
siderable as an atom at that time, and not worth 
the thinking on ; and is entertained with that sweet 
content, that it cannot wish to be anywhere else ; 
and therefore a by- thought is as unwelcome as 
base company to him that is busy with nobles. 

Beg therefore of God, with earnest importunity, 
at the entrance of every ordinance, for his Holy 
Spirit ; and he hath said, "he will give his Spirit to 
them that ask him." Luke xi. 13. Say, Lord, if 
thy Spirit go not with me, let me not go further. 
For as the intercession of Christ is absolutely 
necessary for your acceptance, so the intercession 
of the Holy Ghost is necessary for your assistance. 
The Spirit itself also making intercession for us 
with sighs that cannot be uttered. Promise your 
heavenly Father that you will never willingly dis- 
oblige or grieve away his Spirit again. Art thou 
dead ; cry, " Quicken me, and I will call upon thy 
name." Is thy heart roving, cry, " Unite my heart 
to fear thy name." Humbly plead his promise, 
that he will put his Spirit and fear into your hearts, 
that you shall never, and if never, then not in his 
solemn ordinance, depart from him ; and observe 
the gracious gales of the Spirit, and when they 


clash not with the rules of his holy word, lay hold 
on them, and fall to duty. It is best rowing below, 
when the wind blows fair above. When thy heart 
is warm and in tune, then do thy business tho- 
roughly. And beware of grieving him between 
times ; let there be a coherence between prayer 
and practice ; let your whole life be of a piece, lest 
he withdraw when you have most need of him. 
And remember that to grieve the Spirit often, is 
the way to quench the Spirit, and to quench the 
Spirit often is the way to do despite to the Spirit. 
That is a rare expression, " If ye live in the S})irit, 
let us also walk in the Spirit;" Gal. v. 25, how 
far is this phrase from general apprehension or 
feeling ! To live and walk by the conduct and 
quickening of the Holy Ghost, this is the life of a 
saint. And then he that walks in the Spirit, 
"prays also in the Spirit, and watches thereunto." 
Ephes. vi. 18. Whereby those fiery darts of the 
devil, that would conquer the strength of a man, 
are crushed and chased away by the strength of a 




Believe in the presence of God. The eye of 
the master makes the scholar busy. If his eye be 
off the scholar, the scholar's eye is off his book. " I 
have set the Lord always before me ; because he 
is at my right hand, I shall not be moved !" Psalm 
xvi. 8, else your hearts will be moved, and re- 
moved too upon every motion. And therefore 
faith, which doth realize invisible things, is of 
great use in holy duty. " He that cometh to God, 
must believe that he is. Heb. xi. 6. He must as 
fully believe that God is present, as if he were 
visible ; that thou art encompassed and involved in 
the presence of God. If thou go forward, he is 
there ; if backward thou mayest perceive him ; on 
the letlt hand, there he doth work, though thou 
canst not behold him ; he hides himself on the 
right hand, that thou canst not see him, yet he 
knoweth the way that thou takest. Job xxiii, 9, 10. 
This is his common presence ; but then in an ordi- 


nance, there he is in the midst of his people ; there 
he looks over heaven and earth as nothing, and to 
this man he looks, that is poor and contrite, and 
trembles at his word ; and therefore when you pray, 
you must not only speak, as speaking of God, 
but to God. It is slighting a prince when we de- 
liver a petition, and look another way ; we bid our 
children look at us, when they speak to us, and so 
should we at God, who is not far from every one of 
us in his ordinances. There he is with his host 
about him; and though he is above us to determine 
whether his angels are employed to conduct his 
word to us, or our prayers to him, yet it is certain 
that they attend the great JeJwvah, and never more 
willingly than in his ordinances ; being transported 
with joy at a sinner's conversion and most plea- 
santly feasting on our penitential tears. 

It is true, God is always, and everywhere with 
thee, with those more common attributes of im- 
mensity, power and providence ; but in his wor- 
ship, there he is also present by his grace, mercy, 
holiness, and efficacy.* His common presence 

* Remember, there is above thee a heaving ear, a seeing 
eye, and a register-book, wherein all thy thoughts, words, 


may be compared to the sun in a cloudy day ; it is 
in the sky, we have great benefit by it, we should 
die without it ; but his special ordinance presence, 
is like the sun breaking out of a cloud in a summer 
morning, that discovers atoms, warms our bodies, 
and refreshes our spirits. Even so the common 
presence of God upholds the world ; in him we 
live, move, and have our being, and the belief that 
God is every where should persuade us to si7i no- 
where. But now the special presence of God in 
his worship, that like the sun breaking out, en- 
lightens the mind, warms the heart, and melts 
the most rocky soul. Hereby God doth, as it 
were, shine directly upon us ; so that to trifle or sin 
before him, is a crime intolerable. The name of 
every place, where God is rightly worshipped is 
Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there. 

Thy closet, the Lord is there between thy chair 
and thee, and canst thou shift from him 1 thy bed- 
chamber, the Lord is there between thy bed-side 
and thee, and canst thou turn from him? by the 
fire-side with thy family, the name of that place is 

and actions are written, and thou shalt not do amiss. A 
Rabbhi to his scholar. 



Jehovah Shammahj and wilt thou sleep ? In 
the assembly, the Lord is there, and what are 
the persons there, in comparison of him? O 
therefore hear and look at God, and pray and look 
at God, and meditate and look at God, sing psalms 
and still look at God. It was Hagar's saying, 
" have I also here looked after him that seeth me 1 
And she called the name of the Lord that spake to 
her, Thou God seest me." Gen. xvi. 13. call 
the name of the Lord that speaks to thee, and the 
Lord to whom thou speakest, "thou God seest 
me."* Keep thy eye upon him, as he keeps his 
eye upon thee ; find a fairer object, and gaze and 
spare not ; but while there is none in heaven or 
earth desirable like him, let nothing in heaven or 
earth distract thee from him. The lively sense of 
this will charm the heart exceedingly, and we 
steal from duty because we see no one there. It 
is said, " a king that sitteth in the throne of judge- 
ment, scattereth away all evil with his eyes," Prov. 

* God looks not at the oratory of your prayers, how ele- 
gant they be, nor at the geometry of your prayers, how long 
they be, nor at the arithmetic of your prayers, how many 
they be, nor at the logic of your prayers, how methodical they 
be ; but the sincerity of them he looks at. — Brooks. 


XX. 8 ; that is, his very countenance should read 
such a lecture of justice, temperance, chastity, and 
piety, that every spectator should fear to do other- 
wise. then, how should the presence of God so 
enchant the soul with holiness, goodness, and 
sweetness therein, that not one thought could 
be spared from so lovely an object ! 

The full and clear vision, and fruition of this pre- 
sence of God doth so eternally ravish and content 
the soul in heaven, that they would not look off the 
the face of God for a thousand worlds ; no, though 
all the kings of the earth in their greatest triumph, 
should pass by the heavenly gates, with the earth's 
utmost glory with them, a glorified soul is so full 
of the presence of God, that it would not spare one 
minute's look to see it all. It is said of one Tlieo- 
dorus, a martyr, that in all his tortures he smiled, 
and being asked his reason, answered that he saw 
a glorious youth wiping the sweat off his face, 
whereby he was infinitely refreshed. If thou 
couldst but see by the eye of faith, the blessed face 
of God smiling on thee, and with the handkerchief 
of his love wiping thy sweat and tears away, thy 
heart would be glad, and thy glory rejoice, and 
thou wouldest say, Lord, it is good, yea, it is best 


for me to be here. Go not willingly from him, 
without a sight of him ; JMoses had few distractions 
when he saw God face to face. The actual faith 
of a saint engages the actual presence of God. 
Drexelius tells us of a vision of a holy man, and 
behold in the temple, an angel at every man's 
elbow that was at prayer; he that prayed with 
malice in his heart, his angel wrote his petitions in 
gall ; he that prayed coldly, his prayers were writ- 
ten in the water ; he that prayed with distractions, 
his suits were written in sand ; and he that prayed 
in faith, his angel wrote his petitions in letters of 
gold. The moral whereof at least is good ; if 
thou wouldest believe that every word spoken by 
thee or to thee, is written, with what care and con- 
science wouldest .thou pray and hear? And be 
sure, there is one among you that takes notes of all, 
who will give to every man according to his works, 
whom to see and feel in an ordinance will release 
you from distractions. 




Lay a law upon your senses. Beg of God to 
sanctify them ; as they are all pensioners to Satan 
by nature and agreement, so bring them all into 
covenant with God, that ye may be sanctified in 
soul, body, and spirit. Give them to him, use 
them for him. It is said, " The fool's eyes are in 
the ends of the earth." Prov. xvii. 24. Any new 
face that comes in, any strange garb, any noise 
about, every head that moves, every leaf that stirs, 
commands the eyes and heart of a fool, but " Let 
thy eyes look straight on, and let thine eye-lids 
look straight before thee." Prov. iv. 25. Compose 
thy eyes in that devout and heavenly posture, that 
whatever falls out, thou may est keep to thy busi- 
ness without wavering. For the heart is used " to 
walk after the eye," Job xxxi. 7, to the undoing 
of the soul. 

It is a precept among the Rabbins, that if a Jew 
be at prayer, though a serpent come and bite him, 
yet he must not stir till he hath done his duty. 


Satan, that old serpent, will be nibbling at thy heel 
with one vain suggestion or other ; but go thou 
through with thy business, and let God alone with 

In prayer then, fix thy eyes heavenward, and let 
nothing divert them, till the prayer be done. This 
will show that thou wouldest lift thy heart thither, 
if thou couldest, and will prevent many an imper- 
tinent distraction that comes in by the eye. If 
any deride thee for this, doubt thou not of good 
company. "Unto thee do I lift up my eyes, thou 
that dwellest in the heavens." Psalm cxxiii. 1. 
Let your ears be shut to every thing besides your 
work. And the lifting up your craving hands, will 
not be unprofitable to this end ; for you will find 
them to flag when the heart flies off* from its busi- 
ness, whereby you may be advertised to come in 
again. " Let us lift up our hearts with our hands 
unto God in the heavens." Lam. iii. 41. And let 
your prayers be vocal, if it may be, for the voice 
both helps to fix the thoughts and raise the aflec* 
tions, the want whereof we discern in meditation. 

In hearing of God's word, let the eye be chained 
to the preacher with the greatest attention and 
reverence ; as if you saw an angel in the pulpit, or 


Christ himself. And beware, lest your needless 
compliments to men be interrupted as a neglect of 
God. It is small manners to be complimenting 
the king's servants in his presence chamber, till 
you have done your homage to the king. Do your 
work with God ; it is time enough to perform your 
civilities to men, when that is done. Look then 
to God ; from him is thy expectation, with him is 
thy business. " The eyes of all them that were in 
the synagogue, were fastened on him." Luke iv. 
20. And therein, also, let your ears be only open 
heavenward. Lord ! to deal with thee I am 
come, and thou shalt have all, both my soul and 
my body. 

And here I cannot but digress a little, but it is 
to cure a more criminal digression, which is that 
frequent abuse of whispering, and talking to one 
another in the service of God, which, except it be 
upon such instant indispensable business, a& can- 
not be ordered before or after the ordinance, is 
a sin in a high degree ; and that , 

1. Because it brings a guilt and distraction 
upon two persons at once. If a vain thought there 
be so evil as you have heard, how criminal then is 
this, that involves you both, yea perhaps occasions 


sions a distraction to twenty more that observe 
you? And the guilt of all their vain thoughts 
on that occasion will be charged on your account 
according to the equity of that law. Exod. xxi. 23. 

2. Because this hath more of affront in it. 
Thy heart testifies to God's face, that thou dost 
despise his presence. Who but an impudent 
renegade would, while the king is laying down 
terms of mercy and honour to him, be talking and 
laughing with his companions at some uncouth 
courtier that comes in ? And who but a practical 
atheist shall be whispering with his neighbour 
about any thing, while the king of heaven and 
earth is treating with him about eternity? You 
hold it no piece of good manners, while any man 
is speaking to you, especially if he be your supe- 
rior, to neglect him so far, as to turn from him to 
discourse w4th another ; nay, if the most necessary 
business call you away, you apologize for your 
absence, and crave pardon ; and shall you dare, 
while your Maker is in conference with you, to 
confront him with an open parley with others ? 
This is a high affront, if you consider it well. 

3. This hath more offence in it. An offence 
to the preacher, that hath taken much pains to 


prepare that, which you will not take pains to hear, 
or else imply, it is not worth the hearing. An 
offence to the congregation that sees it, who must 

DO ' 

needs, if they fear God, be troubled at so public a 
fault. An offence to the angels, that, while they 
stoop down to look into the mysteries opened in 
the church, see you slight them so openly. An 
offence to your own souls, that perhaps miss in 
that moment of what would most have done them 
good. O therefore, christian reader! mourn for 
thy misbehaviour in this way, and amend it for 
time to come, lest God refuse to treat with thee, 
that triflest thus in thy treating with him. Re- 
member, it is work enough for a poor man, to 
converse with a great God. He needs no other 
business to fill his hands. 

And then in meditation you m.ust also compose 
your senses. There shut your eye and ear, and 
sequester yourself wholly to the contemplation of 
things invisible. The least sight or sound will 
here distract : any thing, however trifling, will throw 
us off the hinges in this duty. Indeed it is said of 
Isaac, " Xhat he went forth in the field in the 
evening-tide to meditate." Gen. xxiv. 63. And 


in that kind of meditation, where the rise and subject 
matter is sensible, there the senses must be active 
and busy : but I think, in other cases, the outward 
senses may stand aside, and let the soul alone 
without them ; we are never more sensible than 
when we use no outward sense at all. 

And lastly, in communicaiing at the Lord's 
table, fix both your eyes on the sacred elements, 
until the eye has affected the heart to feel what 
Christ felt, to die in his death ; and looking on him 
whom you have pierced, you mourn for him with 
a superlative sorrow; and then look at those 
sacred signs with an eye of faith, till virtue come 
from that brazen serpent to cure your sin-stung 
soul. Look yet again, till thy heart be inflamed 
with love to him, till he cry in heaven : " Thou 
hast ravished my heart, my sister, my love, thou 
hast ravished my heart with one of thy eyes, with 
the chain about thy neck." Cant. iv. 9. He that 
spends his eye there to observe his neighbours, 
and to criticise upon their gestures, hath little to 
do, and less to get in that sacred ordinance. And 
then lay a law upon thine ear, and taste and touch, 
for most of the senses are gratified and useful in 
this ordinance ; that nothing may interrupt thy 


communion with Jesus Christ at that time. For 
there the utmost strength ot' body and soul are 
scarce enough to gain, and feel, and do, what is 
there to be gained, and felt, and done. 

And in general, be not treacherous to yourselves. 
Satan without you can do no great matters within 
you ; your senses you can command, your hearts 
not so well. Be faithful in what ye can, else if 
you could order your very hearts, you would not. 
He that will not do what he can, would much less 
do what he cannot. 



The sixth cure of these distractions is, a watch- 
ful reflection of the soul upon itself, and ejaculation 
unto God. It is said, " a wise man's heart is at his 
right hand, but a fool's heart is at his left." 
Eccles. X. 2. Is not this the meaning of it, that a 
wise good man hath his heart ready, it can speedily 
serve him, instantly recoil upon himself; but a 
wicked foolish man's heart is awkward and unskil- 


ful, a left-hand heart, unwieldy and unready for 
any good work. O get then a dexterousness 
of heart to bolt in, and break the sinful knot 
of your vain imaginations — that a distraction 
may not sit so long on the heart, that it hatch 
and breed yet more of the kind, and so swal- 
low you up in condemnation. It is said, " When 
the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abra- 
ham drove them away," Gen. xv, 11; not 
when they were sitting or feeding upon the 
carcases, but as soon as ever they alighted ; we 
must not give place to them for a moment. Mr. 
Dodd adviseth us to ask ourselves often these two 
questions : .1. What am I? 2. What am I doing? 
We are well, if we can well answer these two 
questions. If thou canst answer, " I am a child of 
God," and " I am doing God's will," it will stand 
thee in more stead than if thou couldest answer all 
the questions in Aquinas. We read that in the 
building of God's house, " every one, with one of 
his hands, wrought in the work, and with the other 
hand held a weapon ;" Neh. iv. 27 ; work and 
watch, work and fight was the employment of 
them. And he that will edify in God's house yet, 
must do the same ; hear and watch, and watch 



and pray, and fight and struggle, and pray still. 
This hill we climb inch by inch : one may tumble 
into hell, but the strait gate must be striven at. 
Let conscience then perform its part, and speedily 
glance into the heart with all fidelity. Abraham's 
fowls came without sending for, and yet would not 
go away without driving. You cannot hinder a 
thief from coming near the house, but you -may 
from quartering with you, at least with any quiet 
and approbation. 

And it is good to cast off these wandering 
thoughts with an ejaculation to God, else the des- 
truction of one will prove the generation of another. 
When Satan casts in his injaculations, lift you 
up your ejaculations. This will engage divine 
strength, and make God your friend. Do as the 
Ephesians, when they thought Alexander would 
speak evil of Diana, " they cried. Great is Diana 
of the Ephesians." Acts xix. 34. So when these 
are injected, then breathe forth some heavenly 
ejaculations, so will you cross the tempter, and 
instead of losing, gain.* Send up thy prayer in a 

* Cry unto God, Lord, wilt thou suffer thy slave to abuse 
thy child before thy face, while he is on his knees for a 
blessing ? — Dr. Harrison, 



parenthesis, like that, " Turn away mine eyes from 
beholding vanity, and quicken me in thy way — 
Forsake me not, God, my strength — And take 
not thy Holy Spirit from me — Awake, O north 
wind, and come thou south, blow upon my garden." 
These darting desires sent up with faith, will 
weaken the habits of corruption, and affright Satan 
from his suggestions. This resisting the devil 
will make him flee from you : as the golden spikes 
were set on the temple to keep the fowls from 
thence, so will these, being conscientiously used, 
keep off vain thoughts from lodging upon j^our 
sacrifices. Up therefore and stir up thyself, by 
this means to save thy sacrifice from being de- 
voured, and thy soul polluted. Alas ! we are daily 
told, and we feel it, that the heart is deceitful 
above all things ; if a wary eye be not kept over 
it, you will find it sometimes in the bed of lust, 
sometimes on the pinnacle of honour, and often 
digging in the world, and yet salve up all with an 
"I thank God, I am not as other men are." If 
ever you be rid of these guests, you must do as 
good Barnabas advised the christians at Antioch, 
"with full purpose of heart to cleave unto the 
Lord." Acts xi. 23. There must be heart, purpose 


of heart, full purpose of heart, and then you will 
cleave unto the Lord. 

Object. But I am suddenly fallen from God, 
before 1 was aware,* and when I see it, and resolve 
anew, yet ere five sentences be past I am gone 

Jlnsw. This shows the sad corruption of our 
nature, and should therefore humble us ; and this 
argues also the contracted ill disposition of the 
soul ; when a disease hath such revivals and re- 
turns, it speaks that it is too deeply rooted, yet in 
this case you must not give up, nor lay down your 
watchfulness ; you must not compound with sin, 
because it is hard to sue out an ejection^ no peace 
must be made with Amalek for ever. If the devil 
and your unregenerate part be unwearied in their 
assault against you, you must be unwearied in 
your resistance, and die in self defence. And you 
will find, as use and custom have strengthened 
these temptations, so an use of reflection and 

+ Neh. iv. 11. "And our adversaries said, They shall 
not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among 

them and cause the work to cease." Thus Satan says, 

and on this principle he acts. 


strenuous opposition, will at length weaken, and at 
last extinguish them. 



The last and great cure of distractions is 
strength of grace. As no props without will keep 
the ship steady, except there be a store of ballast 
within, so no external helps will establish your 
hearts against these wanderings, without grace, 
yea, strong grace within. " It is a good thing that 
the heart be established with grace." Heb. xiii. 
19, for, 

1. The more sanctifying grace you have, the 
more mortified will you heart be unto the world, 
and the flesh, the great disturbers of divine service. 
The fairest landscape shown to a dead man moves 
him not at all. A heart dead to the world, is not 
removed from God with every trifle of the world. 
" While we look not at the things that are seen, 
but at things that are not seen." 2 Cor. iv. 18. 
Things visible are not worth looking at, especially 


when things invisible are in place. What is a 
temporal house, or land, or children to me, that 
see, and am labouring for an eternal and glorious 
house and state? Alas! what taste is there in 
these rotten things ? 

2. The more grace, the clearer will be your eye of 
faith, to behold the majesty of God,* with whom 
you have to do, and the reality of the things about 
which you treat ; for " faith is the evidence of 
things not seen," and makes the soul as real as the 
body, and heaven as real as the world, and the day 
of judgement as real as the present day : and how 
undistractedly would a man pray, that saw the 
earth in flames, or himself dropping into another 
world ? 

3. The more grace, the more tender will be 
your conscience, and the sooner smart, and more 
oppose these -enormities ; the tender eye cannot 
bear what the harder hand can. A distraction in 
a duty more troubles a tender conscience, than the 
total omission of it doth another. A little sin, is 
no little sin, where there is a great deal of grace. 

* Psalm xlviii. 9. " We have thought of thy loving kind- 
ness, O God, in the midst of thy temple." These are the 
thoughts of such as see by the eye of faith. 


O keep your conscience tender, with all the care 
and skill you can employ. A little wedge makes 
way for a greater, and a little thief can let a greater 
in. Blessed is the man that feareth alway, and he 
that hath a soft heart is always hard to sin. 

4. The more grace, the more affections to 
things above ; " set your affections on things 
above," Col. iii. 2, and where there is much affec- 
tion, there is little distraction. A heavenly mind 
is all in all. Isaiah xxvi. 8, 9. When the desire 
of the soul is to the remembrance of God, when 
with thy whole soul thou hast desired him in the 
night, then with thy spirit ivithin thee, thou wilt 
seek him early.* He that hath his usual con- 
versation in heaven, will not easily have his heart 
from thence in prayer. It is a clear case, where 
the treasure is, there will the heart be also. A 
mind above, will not so easily have thoughts 
below. Where is the man who can say, " My 
soul breaketh for the longing it hath to thy judge- 
ments at all times." Psalm cxix. 20. He whose 

* If a man have store of gold and silver in his pocket, and 
but a few fartliings, he will bring out gold more readily than 
farthings ; so when there is much grace, much of heaven in 
th3 soul, your thoughts will savour of that.— Ccbbett. 


heart longs for the presence of God, will break his 
heart when he slips from him : and he that cries, 
O when shall I come and appear before God ? will 
not privately wish, When shall I have done, and 
take leave of him? 

5. The more grace, the more disposed frame 
ivill the heart he in, for the service of God. And it 
is indisposition to an ordinance, that lets in dis- 
tractions there ; as an instrument out of tune hath 
divers jaring strings, and still one or other slips 
and spoils the melody ; a distraction is a string 
slipt that spoils the music, a tuned and disposed 
heart would prevent it much. The flock of sheep 
that is indisposed and unwilling to drive, start out 
of the way into every lane's end ; one this way, 
and another that ; and just so it is with an unwil- 
ling heart, one thought starts this way and another 
that, and it requires skill to drive them forward. 
but a willing heart, a heart prepared and ready to 
every good work, flies upward, and delights itself 
in the Lord ; " the law of God is in his heart, none 
of his steps shall slide." Psalm xxxvii. 31. 

6. The more grace, the more sinritual and 
invisible sins are observed and resisted. Small 
grace discerns and mortifies the filthiness of the 


flesh ; but strong grace sees and hates the fihhi- 
ness of the spirit, and so perfects holiness in the 
fear of God. Gross sins are left at first, but more 
refined sins, spiritual wickedness in heavenly em- 
ployments ; these are work for riper grace after- 
wards. Hence the strong christian can with ease 
avoid oppression, cruelty, uncleanness, drunkenness, 
and the like ; but the weak christian hardly con- 
quers spiritual pride, passion, unbelief, distractions, 
and such like ; a little mote more troubles the eye, 
than much dirt molests the hand ; so a holy, tender 
heart is more troubled with these undiscerned sins, 
than another man with greater crimes. 

7. The more grace, the stronger resolutions 
you will put on against them ; and resolution 
breaks the heart of them. The poor countryman 
going to his market, at every door in town almost 
there is a snare laid for him ; here one calls him 
in, and there another ; but he resolved in the 
morning not to spend a penny, and thereby he 
breaks through and avoids them all. Alas ! his 
whole week's earnings had gone at once, and he 
should have had nothing but repentance to feed on 
the week following. Even so, when (hou comest 
into a holy ordinance, the soul's market, where 


the soul hath much business ; here one thought 
stands and beckons, and there lies another, and at 
the door of every verse and sentence, a suggestion 
stands ; but if thou hast firmly resolved at the 
beginning of the duty, by God's grace, I will not 
stir from my God, from my work one tittle, thou 
wilt not heed nor exchange a word with these vain 
follies ; for alas ! if thou shouldest, the whole gain 
of thy duty would be eaten up, and the end of thy 
duty would be the beginning of thy grief. 

8. The more grace, the more business you will 
find you have to do iviih God in his ordinances ; 
little grace hath little to do, and much grace hath 
much to do ; he hath always business with God, 
special earnest business. " One thing have I 
desired of the Lord, that I may dwell in the house 
of the Lord," — and why ? " to behold the beauty 
of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple." Psalm 
xxvii. 4. O, I have somewhat to enquire after, I 
am to do something by this duty, and therefore 
cannot trifle. He that comes to visit a friend in a 
compliment, talks, walks, trifles, and goes home 
again ; but he that comes upon business is full of 
it. He is like Abraham's honest and faithful ser- 
vant ; " and there was meat set before him to eat, 


but he said I will not eat till I have told mine 
errand." Gen. xxiv. 33. I have great business 
with the Lord, about the church, and about my 
soul, and I will not eat, nor talk, nor think, nor 
trifle, about any thing, till I have told mine errand, 
or heard my Maker's errand unto me ; and for this 
end, it is a rare thing to carry somewhat always 
on the spirit to spread before God, a heart full of 
some needful request, or matter whereof to treat 
with God. " My heart is inditing a good matter," 
and then " my tongue shall be like the pen of a 
ready writer." Psalm xlv, 1. then I shall go 
merrily on in his service, when I have matter pre- 
pared in my heart. And indeed, as the mariner 
sees more new stars the further he sails, he loseth 
the sight of the old ones, and discovers new ; so 
the growing christian, the further he sails in re- 
ligion, discovers new wants ; new scriptures affect 
him, new trials afflict him, new business he finds 
with God, and forgetting those things that are 
behind, he reacheth after those things that are be- 
fore, and so finds every day new business with the 
Lord his God ; and he that is busy trifles not ; the 
more business, the less distractions. And there- 
fore be advised all ye that intend for heaven, to 


get more grace. It is as much your duty to get 
the second grace, as it was your duty to get the 
first grace ; and as the want of this would damn 
you, so a want in that will displease God, and that 
is as bad. 

Quest. But how should a poor weak christian 
get strong grace ? If I can get any grace it is 
well for me, a little grace is much for him that had 
none at all. 

Answ. Though thou art a poor weak christian, 
yet that strong and blessed God, whose thou art, 
" gives power to the faint, and to them that have 
no might he increaseth strength." Isaiah xl. 29. 
And though it is well for thee to have any grace, 
yet it is better for thee to have more ; few people 
are contented with merely living, but they would 
live well and comfortably, they would be healthful 
and plentiful ; and will a little only of grace serve 
thy turn? And though a little grace be well for 
him that had none, yet it is not well for him that 
hath such means and motives for much grace, as 
thou hast. And therefore I renew my counsel, if 
ever you would attend upon God or enjoy him 
hereafter without distraction, strive for stronger 
grace ; and to obtain it, 


1. You must be upright and humble. Upright, 
for " he that hath clean hands shall be stronger 
and stronger." Job xvii. 9. The healthy child 
grows ; the child painted on the wall thrives not ; 
so the sincere christian, though he feel it not, 
makes progress, and goes from strength to 
strength ; but the hypocrite never grew, for he 
never had a root. And humble you must be ; the 
humble vallies grow ; God never thinks he lays 
out too much upon a humble heart. 

2. You must manage the means of growth with 
your whole strength. Attend upon the most edify- 
ing ministry, read the most profitable books, con- 
sort with the most lively growing christians, and 
particularly be frequent in the trial of the state of 
your soul. Each week, if possible, call yourselves 
to some account, and strive to discern a weekly 
growth ; but if you cannot, desist not from that 
work, but try again ; single out some special 
grace, or duty, to thrive in next week ; as for ex- 
ample, the grace of patience, saving knowledge, 
the duty of a husband, parent, or child. And still 
be trying ; you will find one time or other, what 
will fully pay you for your labour ; only observe, 
he that thrives in the world takes pains and care ; 


and so in grace, he that will grow, must strive and 
labour for it. A little grace is worth a great deal 
of pains. 

And thus ypu have the eighth point : to wit, the 
cure of distractions, if you will apply it ; but to 
what end are rules, unless you will be ruled by 
them? These helps cannot help you, except you 
now faithfully put them in practice. The antidote 
cures not in possession, but when' applied to the 
disease. And your charge be it, if these do you 
no good. Review them, then, and resolve by 
divine grace to practice them every one, and the 
Lord of heaven give his blessing. 







But lest any honest christian should by his fre- 
quent distractions be discouraged from his duties, 
or in his duties ; I shall, in the ninth place endea- 
vour to prevent such a temptation by laying down 
some encouragements for those that groan under 
the burden of distractions. And I here assert two 

1. That these distractions should not drive you 
from your duties. You have been thinking, per- 
haps, it were better my service were undone, than 
done so confusedly ; and our false hearts are 
secretly prone to accept any occasion to lay down 


our work ; but believe not the devil's false divinity; 
he takes on him to be tender, lest God's name be 
taken in vain, but this is to ensnare you the more ; 
but in this sense obedience is better than sacrifice ; 
thy obedience to his command is more pleasing 
to him than thy torn sacrifice. And then it is a 
known case, that the omission of a duty will never 
fit one for a duty better. Luther''s saying herein 
was. The more I neglect, the more unfit I am. 
Indeed, some ground will mend by lying still, but 
that is better ground than is in fallen man's heart. 
Our's is the ground that must be stirred, and 
manured, and quickened, and then some fruit will 
come. As one sin fits the heart for another, so 
one duty fits the soul for another. However, it is 
better to serve thy master with a trembhng hand 
than not at all ; and our Father takes well a well- 
intended work, though it be unwillingly marred in 
the making. 

2. These distractions should not wholly (lis- 
courage you in the iierformance of your duties. 
Displease you they must, discourage you they 
must not. Our good master would not have us 
draw heavily in his service. It is prophesied, 
" they shall sing in the ways of the Lord." Psalm 


cxxxviii. 5. This is a sweet hearing. God's 
work goes on best, when we sing at it. All the 
infirmities of a christian laid together should not 
discourage him in his duty. iVnd for your support, 
I lay down these encouragements. 

1. Distractions are consistent with grace. Grace 
may live with them, but not be lively long with 
them. They are like the blue and yellow weeds, 
that grow with the best corn that is. Grace may 
live with them, though it can never agree with 
them ; and therefore conclude not against thyself. 
Oh ! I have no grace, I am so pestered with these 
things ; surely no child of God hath such a heart. 
For this is an epidemic distemper; wherever the 
hand of God hath sown good seed, the enemy hath 
scattered these tares amongst it. Indeed there is 
no sin so crimson, that is absolutely inconsistent 
with grace, abate but that most awful one, the sin 
against the Holy Ghost. Let no profane heart 
make use hereof to encourage them in their sins : a 
profane heart, I say, for a gracious heart is of 
another temper. Alas ! the worst of sins do some- 
times peep into the best men's hearts, yea, may 
creep into them and lodge in them for a season. 
How much more may a sudden thought break in, 


which, Hke lightning, springs into the heart, with- 
out any warning? Do not therefore cry out, when 
this or any other corruption steals into your hearts, 
I am a lost man ; this cannot consist with grace ; 
but this should not consist with grace. The for- 
mer conclusion being made, dejects the spirits ; 
but the latter whets the spirit to amendment. It 
was foolishly done of Dinah " to rove about to see 
the daughters of the land," Gen. xxxiv. 1 ; it was 
not done like Jacob's daughter ; but this was no 
argument for her to conclude, 0, 1 am not Jacob's 
daughter. So thou hast a heart like Dinah, of a 
gadding temper, that runs abroad and comes de- 
filed home ; this is not done like a sanctified heart, 
but it were an unwise conclusion to draw hence. 
Certainly I am no child of God ; I have no true 
grace at all. For, alas ! the sweetest rose hath its 
prickles; the greatest wits have a spice of madness, 
and the sincerest heart hath some vanity in it. 





The second encouragement is, that your case 
is not singular. Though the commonness of a 
plague make it not the better, or less mortal, yet it 
shows that I am not alone miserable : so, although 
this consideration make not the sin less heinous, yeA 
it makes the affliction more tolerable. Poor soul ! 
thou art alone in thy complaints. Go to all the 
saints in an assembly, and they will each conclude, 
there is none hath a more giddy heart than he ; and 
there are few at the end of an ordinance would be 
pleased that the rest should know the particulars of 
their wandering. Though charity binds us in par- 
ticular to hope better of every one than of our- 
selves, yet both God's word, and common expe- 
rience tell us in general, that the imaginations of 
the thoughts of men are evil continually. And 
there are none think themselves so bad, but there 
are found others that would be glad to change 
hearts with them ; some indeed are nearer the cure 


of this disease, and do watch more narrowly, and 
so have obtained more freedom than others, but 
yet all are tainted with this infirmity ; and every man 
being convicted by his own conscience, will go out 
of the congregation one by one, and there will not 
be a sinless man to cast a stone at thee. 



The third encouragement is, that Christ's in- 
tercession for thee is without distraction. There 
was fire always on the altar, though the sacrifices 
were intermitted. His intercession is continual, 
ours is interrupted. What unspeakable comfort 
may a poor, weak christian take in this, that Christ 
Jesus is every moment, I say, every moment, pre- 
senting to the Father the unanswerable argument 
of his passion, for obtaining pardon, and grace to 
help him in time of need? Heb. iv. 15, 16 ; vi. 20. 
Poor sinner ! thou art sometimes so dead, that thou 
canst not pray to purpose j so guilty thou darest 


hardly pray, and often so distracted, thou thinkest 
thy prayers stand for nothing ; yet be not dis- 
couraged, thy Mediator is sick of none of these 
diseases. The holy psalmist was sometimes " so 
troubled that he could not speak," Psalm Ixxvii. 4 ; 
yet then had he one to speak for him. The sight 
of that precious glorified Son of God doth infinitely 
please and prevail with his Father for us, when we 
can hardly speak good sense for ourselves. 

Object. But how can I tell that he intercedes for 

Answ. 1. Hast thou a good word to speak for 
him to men? then hath he a good word to speak 
for thee to God. 

And 2. Dost thou sigh, and groan, and speak 
for thyself as well as thou canst ? his intercession 
is to help our weakness, not to excuse our laziness. 
If some ignorant poor man, that cannot tell his 
errand, but is often out in his business, has a cor- 
dial friend, that has the grace of speaking, and the 
favour to be heard, undertakes his business, he need 
not be discouraged ; so, though you have much 
ado, and be often imperfect in your best resolved 
duties, yet you have a friend in court, that has the 
ait of it, and the King's ear beside, who ever liveth 


to make intercession for you ; and therefore do 
your be^t, and never be discouraged. 



The fourth encouragement is, that distracted 
duties may keep you humble, whereas your per- 
fect performances might make you proud. It is 
written of Knox, that on his death-bed, after he 
had received many blows from Satan about his 
sins, he was at last assaulted by him with this 
temptation, That surely God owed him a kindness 
for his upright and industrious labours, until that 
was strongly imprinted on him, " What hast thou 
which thou hast not received ? 1 Cor. iv. 7. Per- 
haps the Lord foresaw that thy heart was ready to 
be inflated with pride, when thou doest well, and 
therefore he suffers these distractions, like vultures^ 
to gnaw upon thy heart, to keep thee humble. Far 
be it from you to draw from hence an occasion to 
rest more securely in these sins. That Knight 
was surnamed Forlunaie, because, being on a time 


on the deck of a ship, a great wave came and took 
him off into the sea, and another wave took him 
and set him on the deck of another ship ; yet no 
man, I imagine, would, to obtain such a name, be 
content that a wave should so hazard him ; even 
so, though God do sometimes make use of our in- 
firmities to do us good, yet let no man venture 
therefore to sin, that grace may abound. Because 
the physician can so temper poison, that it may do 
thee good, wilt thou therefore venture to drink 
poison ? It is miraculous wisdom in God to do 
thee good hereby, and it were miraculous folly in 
thee, therefore, to venture upon evil. And with 
this caution T proceed, and observe, that it is a 
very hard thing to hear, or pray exactly without 
some tinge of spiritual pride after it ; and to pre- 
vent this, God permits us to wander and lose our- 
selves, lest we should be lost ; he sees that it is 
safer for a man to fall into a lesser evil, when he 
can turn it to a greater good, than to attain a lesser 
good, and hazard to fall into a greater evil. O 
when a man sees so much impurity in his very best 
duties, such constant disappointments, such foolish 
impertinencies in his heart, yea, such wicked con- 
trivancies in the very presence of God, then 


what a wretched man am I ! Surely I am more 
brutish than any man, I am not worthy to come to 
thee, nor think I myself worthy that thou shouldest 
come under my roof, no such sinner on earth as I ; 
my best is very bad, etc.* Thus the soul is 
thoroughly humbled, and brought to sit among the 
chief of sinners, and spiritual pride rebuked. 



The fifth encouragement is, that our God can 
gather some sense out of a distracted duty, and do 
us some good by it. " He that searcheth the 
heart, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." 
Rom. viii. 27 ; it is true of our spirit as well as of 
God's. The great searcher of hearts knows what 
you came desirous of, what you meant, though you 

* The worst prayers we make, to our sense, speed ever 
best, and then we pray most happily, when we rise most 
humbled. — Dr. Harris. 


missed it in the deliver}. He can tell you what 
was written in the letter, though it did miscarry, 
and will answer your holy meaning, and overlook 
your unwilling failing. "As a father j)itieth his 
children, so the Lord" — Psalm ciii. 13. Why, 
the child comes sometimes full of a suit to the 
father, £ind he is quite out in his tale, has forgotten 
what he would have ; but the father knows what 
he wants, and what he would have said, and grants 
the whole. And so, provided thou be a child, and 
art heartily sensible of thy wants, and comest pant- 
ing to the throne of grace, thy heavenly Father will 
accept thy meaning, and grant thy petition, though 
thy heart did unwillingly give thee the slip, while 
thou mournest for it, and resolvest to mend it the 
next time.* The industrious schol^ comes some- 
times full and clear in his lesson, but when he is 
delivering it, he is confused. Now, if his master 
knows that he had it perfect before he came, he 
pities and helps him, and concludes that fear or 

* A man that hatli the palsy, his hand sliakes, but we 
cannot say, he shakes his hand : so we may say, it is not 
they but sin in them, as it is not he, but the palsy distemper 
in him that ehakes his hand. — Whilt. 


care made him miss it, and that his want is only in 
utterance, strokes him on the head, and bids him 
labour to do better next time. So the serious 
christian is deeply sensible of his spiritual wants, 
and knows and feels well what he must ask, and 
down he kneels ; but yet when he comes to open 
his case, alas ! he is drawn away utterly against 
his mind, and his heart runs at random. Why 
now, your heavenly Master knows your prepara- 
tion, your intention, your endeavour, your grief, 
your resolution ; he will not turn off such a scholar. 
He is a father, and will make the best of his child's 
faults, especially seeing him falling out with him- 
self for them. 



The sixth encouragement under the burdenof dis- 
tractions is, that there is grace and strength in Jesus 
Christ to help you against these your distractions. 
Without him we can do nothing to purpose ; but 


that is a sweet word, and a true, " I can do all things 
through Christ that strengtheneth me." Phil. iv. 13. 
There is a stock in Christ's hand for such needy 
souls as you. You find your grace insufficient for 
you, but then his grace is sufficient. Rest then on 
his power and pity, and derive thence divine 
strength, to help your human weakness. How can 
that little cistern be empty, that lies with a conduit 
to the ocean 1 How can that wife be poor, whose 
husband is a prince ? How can that body languish 
whose head hath plenty of spirits, and power to 
convey them 1 Why, he was anointed with the oil 
of grace above his fellows, but it was for his fel- 
lows. He was rich for the poor's sake ; he was 
strong for the weak's sake. "Be thou therefore 
stong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." 2 Tim. 
ii. 1. Your wound is not incurable; at this door 
others have succeeded, and so may you. Wrestle 
not therefore against these temptations only in 
your own strength. The devil is too strong for 
you alone, and the heart too deceitful. " Not I, 
but the grace of God with me," said Paul himself. 
If habitual grace be too weak for them, auxiliary 
grace is strong. Money in my friend's purse, espe- 
cially in my father's, is as good as in my own, espe- 


cially when it is there /o?' me. There never was 
seen a Lazarus dying at this rich man's door for 
want. If there be any thing in heaven to please 
you that fear him, you shall not go without it. 



The seventh encouragement is, that in heaven 
you will be perfectly rid of your distmctions. 
There his servants serve him without wanderings. 
Here you ivould serve him, there you shall serve 
him. Here we have the world to cumber and 
draw us off, there will be no other world but heaven. 
Here the devil stands at our right hand to resist us, 
there he shall never come, nor once peep among 
the saints above. Here our flesh is continually 
suggesting evil motions, or crying, " Master, spare 
thyself;" but flesh and blood shall not enter into 
the kingdom of heaven, nor trouble us there. 
Here the crowding of friends distracts us in public, 
and the crying of children distracts us in private, 
but supreme holiness will be all the enjoyment in 


heaven, and no cries were ever heard above. Here 
one untuneable voice distracts us in the psalm ; 
but there will be a perpetual unison, and the eter- 
nal hallelujah shall be sung without discord. 
Here this or that business calls us away, invades 
us in the middle and curtails us at the end ; but 
there is no other business to go to, no company to 
fetch you out, nothing that can give you such con- 
tent, no nor any content out of that blessed em- 
ployment. All the outward senses, and all the 
inward faculties, will be so wholly taken up with the 
vision and fruition of the ever-blessed Trinity, that 
there will not be room for one passing thought or 
glance from that fair object to all eternity. run 
apace, and you will be shortly there, dispatch your 
work with all the speed you can, fly with a holy 
haste through all worldly business, cast anchor at 
no worldly comfort till you discover land, till your 
work be done, and your place in heaven be ready 
for you. And in the interim be not discouraged at 
your rovings, for you are not yet in heaven. Perfec- 
tion is reward as well as duty, and so is our aim 
here but our attainment there. And let that happy 
state be a copy by which you write your present 
duties. Think sometimes when vou are dull and 


roving, you saw a casement open into heaven, and 
there beheld those celestial sacrifices, and their 
divine employment ; and think withal, shortly shall 
I be among them, and do I pray here as I would 
sing yonder? doth this impertinent frame accord 
with yonder most blessed frame ? " Why art thou 
cast down, my soul? I shall yet praise him, -who 
is the help of my countenance, and my God." 
And this may be for encouragement to poor souls 
that are fainting under the burden of their distrac- 

And now at last we see the shore, and so shall 
only lay on some binding sheaves, and drive away; 
and that will be by noting some inferences from 
this subject, which is the tenth and last point to be 







The first inference from this doctrine and sub- 
ject is, that we have cause to mourn over our best 
duties, and when we have written fairest, to throw 
dust thereon. Alas ! what swarms of flies corrupt 
our pot of ointment, and what a savour do these 
leave thereupon in the nostrils of God ? we can 
hardly ever be busy within^ but vain thoughts send 
for us without. As our Lord Jesus could not be 
about his great work, but they came with this dis- 
turbance, " Yonder stand thy mother and brethren 
without, to speak with thee ;" so it is with us ; the 
devil and our hearts together, give us no quiet, 
when never so busy, but will molest and cry, " yon- 


(ler is such a business to speak with thee," this 
iron burns, and that work must be ordered. Alas ! 
what broken and torn sacrifices do we bring to our 
God? what a fair escape have we with our Hves 
and senses out of the presence of God? As that 
emperor killed the sentinel on the place, whom he 
found asleep ; saying, " Dead I found thee^ and 
dead I leave thee." So most justly might the Lord 
answer our distracted duties, with distracting ter- 
rors, and leave us under the judgement of distrac- 
tion, for our sins in distractions. And what a 
piece of ignorance and impudence is it, for any 
man to be proud of his duties ? Alas ! the best 
duties are of divers colours, like the beggar's coat ; 
and what beggar will be proud of his patched coat ? 
If there were any flowers or spices in thy duties, 
they were none of thine ; from thee cam.e all the 
stench, from above came all the perfumes ; and 
what poor reason then hast thou to be proud ? It is 
sad, that when our sins make us humble, our duties 
should make us proud. " We are all as an unclean 
thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, 
for there is none that stirreth up himself to take 
hold of thee." Isaiah Ixiv. 6. With what shame 
and trouble would we go among people if we had 


no better clothes than filthy rags? and yet how 
high we look, that have no better clothes of our 
own upon our souls? If you wear any better, they 
are boiTOwed garments, and what silly wretch is 
proud of borrowed garments'? 

And this shows likewise, what need we have of 
the righteousness of Jesus Christ, to make our 
prayers pass into the holy place. It was the 
smoke of the incense which came with the prayers 
of the saints, and ascended up before God out of 
the angePs hand. Rev. viii. 4. The prayers of the 
saints themselves, are like smoke in God's eyes, to 
speak with reverence ; but the smoke of the 
incense is a perfume in God's nostrils. Jesus 
Christ can be heard when we cannot. Our 
quaintest oratory is broken and ineffectual. His 
intercession is constant and imperatory. Go 
therefore to the throne of grace, leaning on your 
beloved. Keep an actual eye to Christ's media- 
tion in your prayers, and though you bring in his 
precious name in the fag end of your supplication, 
yet remember you have need of him in every sen- 
tence ; a broken prayer hath need of an entire 




It follows hence, that omissions of holy duties 
are extremely dangerous. Into these our fall is 
most frequent, against these our watch is most 
careless, after these our mourning is most easy ; 
yet of these the number is great, and the nature 
heinous. If according to that, " He be cursed that 
doeth the work of the Lord negligently," Jer. xlviii. 
10, what is he that doth not God's work, one way 
or other? If a distraction in prayer may damn, 
what may an omission of prayer do ! If the scho- 
lar be whipped that looks off his book, what will 
become of him that plays the truant ! Do the con- 
sciences of God's children smite them for vain 
thoughts in a duty, how should your's wound you 
that you have no thoughts of your duty ! O you 
that omit secret prayer, reading the Scripture, me- 
ditation, and such like, will your negligence pass 
with God? He sees how seldom you sigh in 
secret ; what strangers you are to pravers and 


tears. Should one in some cases refuse marriage 
for fear of distractions in God's service ; and can 
^'ou wholly omit his service without danger? Are 
watchfulness and seriousness such dispensable 
things, that they are happy that have them, but one 
may do well without them? I tell you, he that 
chastens his careless children, will punish his 
graceless servants. He that makes them smart 
for their distractions, will make you tremble for 
your omissions. Undone duty will undo your 
souls. It is not enough that you have left off the 
language of swearing, unless you have learnt the 
language of praying. It is not enough that you 
have burnt your books of curious arts, unless you 
love to read in the Book of books, the Scripture. 
To be mortified to contemplative wickedness is 
well, but till you be vivified to contemplafive holi- 
ness, it is not well enough. Do you must, or die 
you shall. You may arrive at hell as certainly by 
not climbing up, as by running down ; and lose 
heaven by neutrality, as well as by hostility. When 
you have read the 25th chapter of Matthew, you 
shall tell me whether wanting oil may not as truly 
ruin you, as drinking poison ; whether an unprofi- 
table servant will not come to a sad reckoning as 


well as a prodigal son. Though you take not ano- 
ther's, yet you may be consumed for not giving 
your own ; and in fine, you will find, that sins of 
omission do deserve damnation. 

hearken to this, all ye that live quietly, in the 
omission of closet or family player, of solemn fast- 
ing, or communion in the blessed supper of the 
Lord ! Hath God abated you of the price that others 
must give 1 halh he granted a new way to heaven 
for you ? must others make religion their business, 
and you neglect it where you please 1 What can 
your consciences answer to that, "If a man keep 
the whole law," mark, the whole law, " and yet of- 
fend {Gr. stumble and stop) in one point, he is 
guilty of all." James ii. 10. O beloved! there is 
a concatenation of truths and duties in relioion; you 
may easier go away with all your work than some ; 
a negative hohness will but bring you to a negative 
heaven, and you know behind heaven- door is hell. 
O awaken therefore your hearts, ye that stick at 
this point, that are far from debauchery and excess 
any way, but will not be gotten to positive duties. 
Will ye with one dash expunge the one half of 
scripture? Is not good as amiable, as evil is 
hateful? what cause is there to fear that your 


avoidance of evil is from no good principle ; but 
either fear, or shame, or interest, or at the best, a 
better temper? For the love or fear of God would 
make you cleave to that which is good, as well as 
abhor that which is evil, and to do God's will, as 
well as deny your own. 



See hence what great need we have of watch- 
fulness ; that most continual duty of a christian ; 
this is the garment we must put on every day, es- 
pecially in every duty. Between duties, that we 
may not want praying hearts ; in duties, that we 
miss not prayer-blessings. Some duties bind 
always, but not to be always done, as prayer, hear- 
ing, meditation ; but you can be safe nowhere with- 
out your watch, at all times, in all places, with all 
companies, yea, with no company, in all callings ; 
there is a snare for the heart everywhere. Where- 
fore saith the prophet, " Wait on thy God contin- 
ually." Hosea xii. G ; and the wise man, " Be thou 


in the fear of the Lord all the clay long ;" Prov. 
xxiii. 17, especially, but not only, in your morning 
and evening sacrifices. It is a true and sad ob- 
servation, that many praying people are most de- 
vout and serious in God's service morning and 
evening ; but trace them all day long, hardly one 
word of God or heaven in their mouths, as if reli- 
gion were hemmed up in times of worship ; nay, 
they are often most light and vain betwixt times ; 
but be thou in the fear of the Lord, involved, sur- 
rounded, and swallowed up in the sense and fear 
of God's glorious presence all the day long. This 
will dispose you to duties of worship. A watchful 
christian hath his heart ready at a call ; it is quickly 
in tune that was never out. Holy duties are not 
unwelcome to a holy heart ; the same frame will 
serve. He that walks with God, is never out of 
his way. A short, or rather no preface, will serve 
to usher in conference with him with whom you 
have been conversing all the day. It is sometimes 
the whole work of a prayer to become acquainted 
with God. Away with this strangeness ; if you 
will be upright, walk before God, and watch unto 
prayer. Methinks, sincerity and watchfulness are 
the catholic graces. Sincerity makes every grace 


true, watchfulness makes every grace sure. Of 
all graces, study these catholic graces. Here is 
the essence, here is the quintessence of religion. 
O therefore prize this angelical, this evangelical 
grace, pray for it, "Set a watch, Lord, before 
my mouth, keep the door of my lips ;" Psalm cxli. 
3 ; for except the Lord do keep the city, the watch- 
man waketh but in vain. Thou art impotent, God 
is omnipotent. And then practise it ; the use of it 
will teach the art of it; as children learn to go step by 
step, as they learn to swim by venturing. Adven- 
ture on this exercise, try one week, try one day, 
try one hour, try the next duty. As you renew 
your falls, still renew your vows ; you can do all 
things through Christ that will strengthen you. I 
beseech you, in Christ's behalf, set on this duty in 
good earnest. You will pay me for all my pains 
with one well-grounded resolution to set up a con- 
stant watch. What a sad close will that be unto 
your life, to say, " My mother's children made me 
a keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard 
have I not kept?" Cant. i. 6. therefore watch 
and pray, or else temptation will enter into you, 
and you will fall into temptation. 


And most especially in the service of God.* 
Watch and pray Christ hath joined together; and 
what Christ hath joined together, let no man, espe- 
cially no good man, put asunder. What is the 
first step in an ordinance ? as the orator of old asked 
in another case. Watchfulness. What is the 
second step in an ordinance 1 Watchfulness. What 
is the third step in an ordinance? Still watchful- 
ness. Particularly, 

First, in prayer. Prayer is a pouring out the 
heart unto the Lord ; by a distraction you pour it 
aside. " My soul, wait thou only upon God, for 
my expectation is from him." Psalm Ixii. 5. A 
distraction imposes two masters on the soul to wait 
on. Rovings in prayer make that which is our 
most reasonable service, the most irrational thing 
in the world. No folly like speaking to one per- 
son, and thinking of another. 

Secondly, in hearing God's word. This is the 
audible conference of the Almighty with thy soul. 
A distraction lets him talk unto the walls. When 
you come to a sermon, you " stand on your watch, 
and set yourself on the tower, and watch to see 

* " Gird up the loins of your mind." 1 Pet. i. 13. As 
loose clothes hinder a journey, so loose hearts lunder a duty. 


what God will say to you." Hab. ii. 1. By a dis- 
traction you do almost, as if a servant stopped his 
ears at the orders that his master is giving. 

Thirdly, in reading. Therein you peruse God's 
heart in black and white, where you may believe 
every letter to be written in blood, not like Draco's 
laws, but in bleeding love. A distraction neither 
understands nor applies those sacred characters. 
Which of you would so read your Father's last 
will, especially in matters that concerned your- 
selves? One chapter, one leaf, one verse, well 
read and applied, will do your heart more good 
than a hundred read with half a heart. 

Fourthly, in singing psalms you had need to 
watch. Thereby you pay unto God the rent of his 
mercies. A distraction clips the coin, and turns 
the heart to do homage to the devil. Well re- 
solved was it, therefore, of David, " Bless the 
Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise 
his holy name." Psalm ciii. 1. Thy melody is 
base, if the main strength of the soul be not in it. I 
am persuaded that God has suffered this ordinance 
in particular to be slurred once and again, to be 
left off by some, and cast off by others, out of his 
just judgement, there being so general a neglect to 


the inward and feeling management thereof. For 
where sits the man that lets each word and line in 
the psalms run through his heart as he sings them? 
Ney, if the truth were known, there is hardly one 
passage that is felt from the beginning to the 
end ; for if it were, the heavenly affections it 
would raise, and the sweet frame it would leave on 
the soul ! You would not part with that ordinance 
out of your families nor congregations for all the 

Fifthly, in meditation, great need of watchful- 
ness ; else when the soul is soaring aloft, like the 
eagle, these darts will, or ever you are aware, 
strike down the heart again. O how hard is it to 
spend a quarter of an hour in meditation without a 
distraction! If there be any thing in the fancy, if 
there be any thing in the room, if there be any 
thing in the world, thou wilt have it, to withdraw 
thy heart from God. And generally the more 
spiritual the duty, the more distractions. And 
therefore " I say unto you, watch," 



SECT. lY. 


See hence what cause you have to bless God 
for freedom from distractions, and be sure you do 
it. Those that have an habitual ability against 
these snares, bless the Lord for it ! it is he that 
keeps the heart in tune, not you. We, like little 
children, can break the strings, and put our hearts 
out of tune ; but it is the Lord that sets and keeps 
us in order. You little know the anxiety, and fear, 
and trouble, that these cost many a poor christian ; 
they strive, they moun, they doubt, they are ready 
to throw up all ; these vultures do gnaw upon their 
very hearts ; no comfort, no joy of the Holy Ghost, 
no peace within, and all through the continual as- 
saults hereof. And by the mercy of God only, 
thou art well and free. Thou canst continue in- 
stant in prayer, thou canst come to heaven's gates, 
and get thy errand heard, thy business dispatched, 
and little distraction in it. give the Lord praise, 


lest he leave thee to thyself, and then thy case will 
be more miserable than theirs. Thankfulness 
keeps the mercy which ingratitude forfeits. xVnd 
we are freeholders of these blessings ; but it is be- 
cause we hold of his free grace and mercy. 

Yea, those that are often pestered with them, 
and yet sometimes freed, bless the Lord for that. 
It is as much your duty to praise God when you 
are freed, as to bewail it when you have failed. It 
is the comparison of a good divine : if a man have 
planted many trees in his orchard, and the cater- 
pillars or cankers have consumed them all but one 
or two, how glad will he be of them that are left, 
and make much of them! the rest are killed, and 
these only remain. Even so thy duties of religion, 
which thou hast planted, and expectedst they 
should bring thee some good fruit ; but, alas ! these 
caterpillars have consumed them, unless it be here 
and there a prayer, here and there a sermon, that 
have escaped. bless the Lord for these ! you 
have often prayed for such a mercy, now you have 
it ; let praises wear what prayers have won. It is 
sad to consider, what a beggarly spirit we are of: 
if we want any thing, heaven and earth shall ring 
for us ; but we are graves, wherein the gifts of 


God are buried without any resurrection. Where 
is the heart that is pregnant with praises, that cries 
out to his friend, O help me to praise the Lord ! 
Divide our Hves, and the one half of them is made 
up of mercies, and the other half of sins ; and yet 
divide our prayers, and hardly the tenth part is 
spent in praises. Alas ! thanks is a tacit begging. 
Let God gain the glory, and thou shalt not lose 
the advantage. " The God of Israel is he that 
giveth strength to the people, blessed be God." 
Psalm Ixviii. 35. Conclude with the psalmist, 
" Not unto me, Lord, not unto me, but unto thy 
name give glory." Think not, when thou hast at- 
tended on the Lord without distractions, I have 
acquitted myself well, but mercy hath acquitted 
itself well. He that justly pays his debt shall be 
trusted again. 



You see here in the last place, that religion is 


an inward, a difficult, and a serious business. " He 

is not. a Jew, that is one outwardly but he is a 

Jew, that is one inwardly ; and circumcision is that 
of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, 
whose praise is not of men but of God." Rom. ii. 
28, 29. To be watchful and holy within, that is a 
christian ; to have the vanities of the heart cut off, 
that is circumcision ; to carry it so in an ordinance, 
that you may be praised of God, that is religion ; 
while others are quarrelling about shadows in 
God's ordinances, beware lest you lose the sub- 
stance thereof. 

There is in religion a body and a soul. The re- 
ligion of the body, is but the body of religion; the 
religion of the soul, is the soul of religion. And 
as the separation of the body and the soul is the 
death of a man, so the divorcing asunder the form 
and power of godliness is the death of godliness. 
As it is injury to macerate and destroy the body to 
cure and save the soul, so it is a crime to damn 
and lose the soul, to please and pamper .the body. 
Even so it is injurious to destroy the body and out- 
side of religion, to preserve and advance the soul 
and inside of religion ; but it is heinous to lose and 
break the heart of the inside and vitals of rehgion, 


to pamper and adorn the exteriors thereof. It is 
well, if while we quaiTel about a bended knee, we 
do not lose a brolen heart. 

And then you see here also, that religion is a 
difficult and serious business ; men cannot swim to 
heaven in a stream of rose-water, nor row up this 
river while they are asleep ; we cannot wrestle 
with our God, with our hands in our pockets, nor 
get the blessing without labour and tears. To re- 
peat so many paternosters or ave-marias, with the 
heart on other things, and running sometimes from 
their knees to other business, in the midst of their 
devotion, as many do in the church of Rome ; or 
to say our prayers and be slumbering, or dressing 
us the while, as is the practice of many outside 
christians, is far from our religion. The manner 
of duties is material to the acceptation of them. 
Ah, stupid worldlings ! how can ye read those 
scriptures, " Strait is the gate, and narrow is the 
way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that 
find it." Matt. vii. 14. " The kingdom of heaven 
suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 
Matt. xi. 12, and such hke texts, and yet hope for 
salvation in that secure and formal course you 
hold? Do you imagine there are two ways to 


heaven, — one for the dihgent, mortified, and 
watchful christian, and another for the idle slug- 
gard, or carnal worldling ? Have the holiest saints 
much difficulty to walk with God, and get to him, 
that make it their grand business? They are 
saved, and that is all ; and can you live and die 
well enough, that are neither mortified, nor watch- 
ful, nor diligent ; that have no delight, but in your 
vanities? no skill, but in the world? no diligence, 
but for your base ends? What back-way, have 
you found to heaven? what blind way have you 
descried to happiness ? Awake, awake ! look at 
the scripture, and then look at yourselves, and be 
convinced, that the only way to eternal happiness 
is to make Christ your choice, religion your busi- 
ness, the scriptures your rule, heaven your design, 
the saints your company, and the ordinances your 
delight ; and in them, remember that you go to at- 
tend upon the Lord, and this must be done without 

And now you know your duty and your danger. 
The end of speculation is practice, and the end of 
our preaching is not your approbation, but your 
submission. The christian religion is not so much 
the form of spiritual notions, as the power of 


spiritual motions. He that compliments in God's 
service, will compliment his soul into hell. The 
outside of religion may bring you to the out- 
side of heaven, but inside holiness will conduct 
you into the inside of happiness. If these direc- 
tions I have given be but studied and applied, as 
you would study and apply a medicine for the gout, 
or stone, or but for the tooth-ache, I verily trust 
they will prove the destruction of your distractions ; 
but if they be neglected, your distractions will, 
prove your destruction. 


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